Kris Guarded on Cup Prospects

Mar 11, 2015

NEWCASTLE: Wednesday, March 11, 2015:MELBOURNE Cup winner Protectionist is "too well found" in Saturday's $1m Australian Cup, says his trainer Kris Lees. And he's not suggesting punters race in and take his current odds for the Group 1 assignment.

Protectionist (Craig Williams) will have his second start since joining Lees' stable, and is currently $5 joint favorite with Happy Trails with for the weight-for-age contest.

"From a punting point of view, I think he's too well found in the market," Lees said.

"Realistically, I feel it's at least 400m short of seeing him produce his best.

"He won the Melbourne Cup (3200m) last November, and perhaps we might have to wait until this November before again seeing the best of him.

"But he's a quality horse and you can never rule out that type of horse in any contest."

Lees said Protectionist had thrived since his first-up sixth - when sensationally backed - to Australian Cup rival Mourinho in the Group 2 Peter Young Stakes (1800m) at Caulfield on February 28.

"He is a typical stallion; a very good doer," Lees said.

"Obviously, the return to the bigger track at Flemington and the extra 200m is going to help him.

"We've got our fingers crossed."

Protectionist will return to his Newcastle stable after the Australian Cup and run next in the $1.5m wfa The BMW (2400m) at Rosehill on March

A decision will then be made as to whether he goes on to the $1.6m 150th Sydney Cup (3200m) at Randwick on April 11, for which he has 58kg topweight.

Meanwhile, stablemate Oriental Lady will have her next start in the Group 3 Epona Stakes (1900m) against her own sex at Rosehill on
Saturday week.

Oriental Lady, the Gosford Cup runner-up in January, has been freshened and ran fourth to stablemate Senta De Noche (who scored by eight and a half lengths) in a Cessnock barrier trial over 900m last Monday.

Senta De Noche, a resilient seven-year-old who has won six of his only12 starts, hasn't started since finishing third to "Rockhampton Rocket" Our Boy Malachi in the Listed Starlight Stakes (1100m) at Rosehill in late November.

He has now won two recent trials - the first also over 900m at Gosford on February 24.

"The horse is flying," Lees said. "But I think The Galaxy (1100m) at Rosehill on Saturday week might be a bit rich for him.

"We'll look for an easier race even if he has to carry a bit of weight."

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