Protectionist Ready To Return South

Feb 02, 2015

MONDAY: February 2, 2015: MELBOURNE Cup winner Protectionist is ready to chase the "Fiorente" double.

Trainer Kris Lees confirmed a Melbourne mission for the outstanding former German stayer after he had won a barrier trial on the course proper at Broadmeadow this morning.

Ridden by Hugh Bowman, Protectionist beat Sommernachtstraum and Smokin' Snitzel in the 1200m trial in 1.12.9.

"Very happy with how he performed and Hugh said he gave him a good feel," Lees said.

"I'll keep an eye on the weather, but at this stage the horse is going to Melbourne for the Peter Young Stakes and Australian Cup.

"He may have an exhibition gallop before we send him south about a week before his first race."

The $200,000 Group 2 Peter Young (1800m) will be run at Caulfield on February 28 and $1m Australian Cup (2000m) at Flemington on March 14.

Both are run under weight-for-age conditions. Fiorente (now at stud) won both races last year after capturing the 2013 Melbourne Cup.

Protectionist joined Lees' stable after his stunning victory in the $6m Melbourne Cup (3200m) at Flemington in early November, and his new trainer says he is now "13 or 14kg heavier".

"Today's trial will tighten him up," he said.

"Whilst we have to keep him up to the mark, our goal now is to try and retain the freshness in his legs.

"Obviously, he's a proven handicapper but if he can show the same acceleration as he did in the Melbourne Cup, then the autumn races in Melbourne certainly won't be beyond him."

Bowman made a special trip from Sydney early this morning to ride several of Lees' stars - including Protectionist and Caulfield Cup
placegetter Lucia Valentina - but Lees would not be drawn on a Melbourne partner for the Melbourne Cup hero.

"I'll discuss that with the boys (owners Australian Bloodstock) and let them make the final decision," he said.

Lees is also rapt with how Lucia Valentina is progressing. She wasn't tested in finishing fifth to Whisperossa (beaten less than two
lengths) in a 900m trial soon after Protectionist's hitout.

Pleasingly, Lees is convinced the mare has bounced back strongly from her unplaced Melbourne Cup run behind Protectionist when she didn't
manage the marathon journey.

"I'm confident it hasn't hurt her at all," he said. "She has developed and put on about 20kg," he said.

Noted first-up performer Lucia Valentina will resume in Saturday week's $250,000 Group 2 wfa Apollo Stakes (1400m) at Randwick. She won the Tramway over the same course last September when beginning her spring campaign, which also resulted in a Turnbull Stakes (2000m) success at Flemington.

Lucia Valentina's autumn target is the $4m Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) at Randwick on April 11. Her two Group 1 triumphs have both been at that distance; the Arrowfield Stakes against her own age at Rosehill last autumn and then the Turnbull.

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