Cup Winner Favourite For Melbourne Return

Feb 26, 2015

THURSDAY: February 26, 2015: WHILST trainer Kris Lees is understandably guarded about Protectionist's first-up Caulfield prospects on Saturday, he won't be surprised either if he makes a winning return.

The former German stayer makes his debut for his new trainer in the $200,000 Group 2 wfa Peter Young Stakes (1800m).

"I'm very happy with the way Protectionist is progressing, and he has settled in well in Melbourne," Lees said this morning.

"The horse is in great order. Whether he is sharp enough to win at 1800m is obviously the question.

"I can't say I'm confident, but quality horses can do anything. I won't be surprised if he wins."

Market assessors aren't taking risks with last year's Melbourne Cup winner. TAB.com.au has installed him as the early $3.80 favorite for the Peter Young - a race which 2013 Melbourne Cup hero Fiorente won first-up last year.

Protectionist worked at Broadmeadow on Saturday morning before being floated to Melbourne overnight on Sunday, arriving at his Caulfield stable on Monday morning.

Craig Williams reunites with the horse on Saturday. He rode him for the first time when an eye-catching fourth in the Group 2 Herbert Power (2400m) at Caulfield on October 11 - a performance which really drew attention to his Melbourne Cup prospects a few weeks later.

Lees will fly to Melbourne in the morning to saddle Protectionist and stablemate Marple Miss, who also has a $200,000 assignment at Caulfield.

She runs in the Group 2 Angus Armanasco Stakes (1400m) for three-year-old fillies, run at set weights plus penalties.

Protectionist's Caulfield performance on Saturday will determine immediate autumn plans for him.

"If he runs well, he will stay in Melbourne for the Australian Cup (2000m) at Flemington a fortnight later," Lees said.

"Otherwise, he will come home for The BMW (2400m) at Rosehill in late March."

Chad Schofield rides Marple Miss, who will attempt to stretch her current winning sequence to four in the Armanasco. The filly went to Melbourne with her glamor stablemate earlier in the week, and has drawn five in a field of 11. Marple Miss is $4.60 second favorite in latest TAB.com.au betting.

"She keeps improving, and deserves her spot in a good race such as this," Lees said.

"I'm sure she will run well again."

Lees has a third Melbourne representative this weekend. His pacy mare Malachite will make a delayed appearance at Moonee Valley tomorrow night.

Apprentice Thomas Sadler will claim 2kg on her in the Benchmark 70 Handicap (1000m), lessening her 60.5kg impost. Malachite was to have made her Melbourne debut over 950m under lights at Moonee Valley a fortnight ago, but rain intervened.

"Rather than bring her home, we kept her in Melbourne for this race."

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