Apr 10, 2015
NEWCASTLE: Friday, April 10, 2015: FOR the first time at Randwick tomorrow, Kris Lees ventures to a major race meeting with three live Group 1 chances amongst his 12 runners.
And he feels Protectionist is the best of them, ready to add to his Melbourne Cup success in the $1.6m Sydney Cup (3200m).
The former German stayer is currently third favorite at $4.40 behind Hartnell ($2.20) and Who Shot The Barman ($3.80), who ran third to Protectionist in the Flemington two-miler last November.
Lees today labelled the Sydney Cup the strongest he can recall in his time in racing.
“You’ve got the winner and third placegetter from the Melbourne Cup, and neither is favorite, and The BMW winner (Hartnell),” he said.
“With such an increase in prizemoney, it’s a race you can no longer ignore with genuine 3200m horses such as Protectionist.”
Protectionist joined Lees’ stable after landing the Melbourne Cup, and has been unplaced in three subsequent runs – the first two at 1800m and 2000m in Melbourne and then 2400m in Sydney (fifth in Hartnell’s The BMW at Rosehill a fortnight ago).
But his trainer hasn’t lost confidence, pointing out Protectionist will relish the return to the metric two miles.
“He is an out and out two miler,” Lees said today.
“The horse has really come on in the last fortnight. I couldn’t be happier with him.
“I expect him to be very hard to beat. He is the best of my three Group 1 runners.”
By the same token, Lees is not selling short the chances of Lucia Valentina and Rustic Melody either.
Hugh Bowman rides Lucia Valentina in the $4m Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) and Brenton Avdulla partners Rustic Melody in the $1m ATC Oaks (2400m).
Lucia Valentina finished third to QE favorite Contributer in the Ranvet Stakes (2000m) at Rosehill on March 21, then backed up a week later when seventh to Hartnell in The BMW (2400m).
“I don’t feel her runs have been too bad at all as the weight-for-age standard in Sydney this autumn has been so high,” Lees said.
“I gave Lucia Valentina a freshen-up for several days at our Ellalong Farm property after The BMW, and she looks in fantastic order.
“She is going to get conditions to suit tomorrow. The return to 2000m is ideal and so is the soft track.
“I wouldn’t be underestimating her chances at all.”
Lees also is happy with the progress of his filly Rustic Melody, who clinched an Oaks berth with her gallant second in last Monday’s Adrian Knox Stakes (2000m) at Randwick.
“She keeps taking the next step,” he said. “There are no problems about backing her up; she has put on 1kg since Monday’s race.
“I reckon she has got a really good place chance, and obviously a win would be a huge bonus.”