THREE years after running third with German stayer Lucas Cranach, Hunter thoroughbred syndicators Jamie Lovett and Luke Murrell are planning another European assault on the Melbourne Cup.
Lovett and Murrell, who are directors of Australian Bloodstock, are hoping to make a two-pronged attack on the $6.2 million, 3200-metre race with rising German star Protectionist and well credentialled French galloper Terrubi, but the latter is in serious doubt.
Australian Bloodstock have secured a major interest in Protectionist, and the horse's owner, Christoph Berglar, has retained a stake.
Protectionist will remain with his German trainer, Andreas Wohler, for the Melbourne campaign before moving to the stables of premier Newcastle trainer Kris Lees.
Protectionist is a four-year-old entire by Monsun, which sired last year's Melbourne Cup winner, Fiorente.
A winner of four races from eight starts, Protectionist has never missed a place and won the group 2 Prix Kergorlay over 3000m in Deauville, France, on August 24.
That followed group 2 success in the Hansa-Preis in Hamburg over 2400m in June.
The Prix Kergorlay has become a key form race for the Cup. Americain won the 2010 Kergorlay before going on that year to become the first French winner of the Cup.
Subsequent Melbourne Cup winner Dunaden and runner-up Red Cadeaux also came through the French race.
Terrubi, a four-year-old entire by Dalakhani, will be trained by David Payne.
Terrubi was last in the group 1 Grosser Preis Von Baden in Germany on September 7, his first unplaced run in 10 starts, including three wins.
That failure followed a group2 victory over 2800m in the Prix Nieuil at Longchamp. Second in that race was Brown Panther, which won the Irish St Leger (2800) at its next start and ran eighth in last year’s Melbourne Cup.
Lovett said Terrubi was found to have a back strain after his latest run but is with Protectionist in the Newmarket quarantine and due to leave for Australia on September 27.
‘‘When they jumped he threw his head up, and when they got him back the next day they couldn’t even run their hand along his back,’’ Lovett said ‘‘They will shockwave him and he might be right in two days, or it might take two weeks, and they can’t miss two weeks’ work this time of year.
‘‘Protectionist is spot on and we hope to have two in the race, but Terrubi, we’ll have to see how he travels.
‘‘We haven’t totally discounted him. He’s such a nice horse and we’re not going to risk him if he’s not right.
‘‘We’re just going to have a look at him when he gets to Australia, see how he travels, and if he’s still sore, we’ll pull the pin.’’
The Melbourne Cup setback is nothing new for Lovett and Murrell, who have had two previous runners in the race that stops a nation.
The pair syndicated British stayer Illustrious Blue, which finished ninth in 2010, and Lucas Cranach, which was third behind Dunaden in 2011.
They had high hopes for Lucas Cranach, but an injury on race eve left them wondering what could have been.
‘‘He got a foot abscess and just wasn’t right,’’ Lovett said. ‘‘He was spiked when he twisted a plate in quarantine on the Saturday before the race, and he was never quite right after that, but that’s racing. He was a really good horse.’’
Lovett said the 2014 buys were ‘‘as good a horses as we’ve had since Lucas’’.
AAP reports: Melbourne Cup favourite The Offer will be out to make a spring statement in the Underwood Stakes at Caulfield on Saturday.
The Offer delighted connections when he hit the line strongly for fifth in the Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes first-up, confirming his position at the top of Melbourne and Caulfield Cup markets.
Roger Elliott, trainer Gai Waterhouse’s Melbourne representative, exuded some of the confidence his boss is renowned for by declaring he would not be surprised to see the imported stayer triumph in Saturday’s 1800m group 1 race.
‘‘On his work and the way he has been, I think he is a winning chance, for sure,’’ Elliott said.
The Underwood is short of The Offer’s preferred distance as he has not won over less than 2200m.
It will be an important spring marker as he meets star New Zealand mare Silent Achiever and weight-for-age performers Happy Trails and Foreteller.