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October 16, 2014
words by STEPHEN HOWELL
photography by COLIN BULL
For those looking further down the track than Saturday's Group 1 Caulfield Cup, it was hard to miss German visitor Protectionist in the run, and at the finish, of last weekend's Group 2 Sportingbet Herbert Power Stakes (2400m).
The bookies didn't. By Thursday they had him as the $7 favourite for the Group 1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) at Flemington on November 4, ahead of four who will go around in the Caulfield Cup—the Japanese pair Bande and Admire Rakti, the Group 1 Turnbull Stakes winner Lucia Valentina and the Sydney Cup winner The Offer.
This promotion was made on the strength of his "head on the chest" settling midfield on the fence and, after losing some momentum getting stuck behind a slow one and looking for an opening around the turn, finishing strongly to be beaten a only length … and going better than anything on the line.
Favouritism for the Emirates Melbourne Cup, an "honour" that can be handed about several times in the lead-in to the Cup, could change dramatically after the Caulfield Cup, but Protectionist has it now; and on that one outing from the Werribee quarantine centre, deserves it.
His rider in the Herbert Power, Craig Williams, said: "He would have won if he'd settled one position closer". (Englishman Ryan Moore has the Cup ride, but Williams said, "If he wasn't riding him I'd love to ride him".)
German trainer Andreas Wohler, who has had considerable success with travelling horses, said: "The horse, he run very well. He didn't have the best of trip and he was finishing very fast, but it was just too late."
Having prepared Protectionist to win the Group 2 Prix Kergorlay (3000m) at Deauville in France in August, Wohler has no concern about the 3200m compared to the 2400m at Caulfield.
After the French win, Australian Bloodstock bought a half-share from German owner Christophe Berglar, who had said the stallion was not for sale. "They made probably a good offer, that's why he changed his plans, and shared the risk," Wohler said.
Australian Bloodstock had another German stayer, Lucas Cranach, third in the 2011 Cup after finishing fifth in the Caulfield Cup.
Wohler, after just on a week in Victoria, went back to his stables at Guetersloh (near Dortmund), after the Caulfield meeting, planning to return just on a week before the Melbourne Cup.
Looking after Protectionist is six-year stable employee Lisa Kruellmann, who strapped the horse at Caulfield.
Asked if she had taken Wohler horses abroad before, she said: "One time to Chicago and to Woodbine in Canada and to Dubai. This is the first time that I travel with him (Protectionist, who had raced only in Germany and France).
"In the stable I'm only an exercise rider. When we have to travel with the horses I go with them.
"I don't ride him in the quarantine. He ride him in the quarantine," she said pointing to work rider Jose Silverio in front of Protectionist's race-day stall 131 at Caulfield.
"He is a really quiet horse, we have no problems with him. Well behaved … sometimes he can bolt—that's like a colt, yeah?"
Protectionist, a five-year-old stallion by Monsun (GER), sire of last year's Melbourne Cup winner Fiorente, has had nine starts for four wins, and the Herbert Power was the only time he had not finished in the first three … and he should have.
Asked if the race would help ensure Protectionist would be spot on for the $6 million Cup, Kruellmann said: "I think so, yeah. I'm happy with the horse. I think that was a good run (and) we can look forward to the Melbourne Cup."
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