The autumn program for Melbourne Cup winner Protectionist isn’t locked in but trainer Kris Lees says it’s likely he will kick off his campaign in Melbourne.
Owned by Australian Bloodstock, Protectionist was transferred to Lees’ stable in Newcastle from German trainer Andreas Wohler after the galloper’s Melbourne Cup triumph in November.
Lees said the Australian Cup was part of a likely program but that plans had not been confirmed.
“The programming is very congested this season, especially in Sydney, so we haven’t really sat down and said which way we are going to go,” Lees told Melbourne radio station RSN.
“Possibly he comes to Melbourne and runs in the Peter Young and the Australian Cup and then probably back to Sydney for The BMW.
“That’s a likely scenario but we’ll just see as we get a bit closer.”
The Group Two Peter Young Stakes and Group One Australian Cup are weight-for-age races over 1800m and 2000m respectively.
The BMW in Sydney is a Group One weight-for-age race over 2400m.
The 2013 Melbourne Cup winner Fiorente won both the Peter Young and Australian Cup in Melbourne last year on his return to racing after his Melbourne Cup win the previous spring.
Lees said Protectionist was just starting to do some even-time work on the training track but appeared to have settled into his new stable well as he prepares for a highly anticipated return to racing.
The trainer says it will be interesting to see how the star stayer reacts to racing over shorter distances this campaign.
Meanwhile, stablemate Lucia Valentina is likely to resume in the Chipping Norton Stakes in Sydney.
Lees said the Apollo Stakes two weeks earlier was also an option, but most likely the dual Group One winner and Caulfield Cup placegetter would kick off in the Chipping Norton over 1600m.
The Ranvet Stakes and then the Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) are on the radar for the mare.
“I’m really pleased with how she is coming up,” Lees said.