Having coaxed William Haggas into running Protagonist in the Doncaster Mile, Australian Bloodstock director Jamie Lovett admits his reputation is officially on the line.
The $4 million race was not originally on the radar for the international and Haggas, who is more familiar with top-level weight-for-age racing, instead had designs on next week’s Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
“Ironically, we had to convince William to run him,” Lovett said.
“He was always thinking he’d be a Queen Elizabeth horse, but I said to him, ‘I don’t need the practice running second or third because I think (stablemate) Dubai Honour is nearly a good thing in that race. I’d rather keep apart from your other horse and have a crack at the Doncaster’.
“Generally the trainers are right. I’ll probably find out the hard way on Saturday that he’s not fast enough.”
Dodging Dubai Honour wasn’t the only part of Lovett’s pitch.
He can make a genuine case for Protagonist’s chances after the horse made a brilliant local debut to win the Sky High Stakes (2000m) at Rosehill two weeks ago.
While the six-year-old is unplaced from six mile attempts in Europe, Lovett says the bumper Doncaster field and different way of racing in Australia is tailor-made for a strong middle-distance horse, as is a weight drop to 50kg.
“Looking at his races in Europe, although he hasn’t won at a mile, I do think he’s run very well at a mile and they’re different race shapes over there where they haven’t gone overly quickly,” Lovett said.
“Coming off a hot tempo in a ‘Donnie’, I can just see him really strong late.
“A lot of the horses Chris Waller and Gai Waterhouse have won with over the years, they profile very similarly, they’ve won over a mile-and-a-quarter previously.”
Protagonist is the first horse Australian Bloodstock has raced with Haggas.
While they have bought several horses from him, including 2020 Sydney Cup placegetter Raheen House, the syndication company only recently thought to buy one for him.
“It only just dawned on us, ‘you’re bringing horses down for the autumn, why don’t we buy a couple for you’, and he jumped at the opportunity,” Lovett said.
“We bought Earl Of Tyrone, which unfortunately went amiss in quarantine, but he’ll be a nice horse down here in time.
“If William’s not the best (trainer in the world), he’s one of the best and to have a world-class trainer training them certainly helps.”
Protagonist will be partnered by in-form jockey Ben Thompson and has barrier eight, while Australian Bloodstock’s other runner Nugget has a trickier task after drawing gate 22.
Lovett confirmed Protagonist could still join Dubai Honour in the Queen Elizabeth, provided he performs well on Saturday.
– RAS NewsWire