Just about everything William Haggas touches in Australia turns to gold and he is now plotting a Group 1 Doncaster Mile coup with a European weapon who will carry just 50kg.
Protagonist turned up Down Under and scored the Group 3 Sky High Stakes (2000m) at Rosehill on March 11 – stunning connections who thought he would race well but may need the run.
Prior to making his Aussie debut, Protagonist hadn’t raced since finishing second at York in England in October last year.
His Sky High win boosted his Australian rating from 95 to 105 – propelling him up the Doncaster ballot order to equal 24th and virtually certain of a run in the $4m Group 1 mile at Randwick on April 1.
— SKY Racing (@SkyRacingAU) March 11, 2023
And Protagonist has been weighted with just 50kg in the Doncaster.
It’s extraordinary when you think that, just seven starts ago, Protagonist carried 76kg in a European hurdle race over 3219m.
“He won a set weights and penalties race in his first Australian start, so he didn’t receive a (Doncaster) penalty for that,” Australian Bloodstock’s Jamie Lovett said.
“He drops now to 50kg in the Doncaster and he wouldn’t have seen that in his life.
“It is very appealing for him, racing for $4m in the Doncaster, and when you consider some of his better form in Europe is at a mile.
“If he was to run very well in the Doncaster, we could even back up seven says days into the Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
“He is a quality horse and as we have seen their (Europe’s) horses are just better (than Australian horses) once you get out in trip.”
Lovett, whose Australian Bloodstock company famously won the 2014 Melbourne Cup with Protectionist, said there was only upside with Protagonist.
He is a $13 chance in the Doncaster with TAB and a $15 chance in the Queen Elizabeth.
“Before his first start in Australia, he hadn’t raced since last October so we were a little bit guarded and thinking he would maybe need that run,” Lovett said.
“He also paraded a bit burly, but apparently that’s just him.
“Going three weeks into a Doncaster – dropping back from a mile and a quarter – is a formula that has worked for other horses in the past and (Chris) Waller has done it many times with his horses.”
Meanwhile, Lovett said Melbourne Cup winner Gold Trip can bounce back in Saturday’s Group 1 Tancred Stakes (2400m).
Gold Trip finished more than seven lengths behind Haggas sensation Dubai Honour in the Group 1 Ranvet Stakes last Saturday.
“This (back-up) was always the plan,” Lovett said.
“We thought he would have finished a bit closer last weekend, but to be fair he bumped into a very good horse.
“If you look at Gold Trip’s form, all his best form is at 2400m and beyond.”
Gold Trip is rated a $4.40 chance to take out the Tancred.
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