Melbourne Cup 2014: Andreas Wohler predicts Protectionist will just get better

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4 Dec 2018

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German trainer Andreas Wohler is predicting big things for his Melbourne Cup winner Protectionist, even though he will not be saddling him up for future races.

The lightly raced galloper will now move to the Newcastle yard of NSW trainer Kris Lees, and Wohler believes that far from being an out-and-out stayer, the son of Monsun might be better suited to shorter trips, like the 2400 metres over which the richly endowed BMW is run during the Sydney autumn carnival.

The trainer, the first German to win Australia’s greatest race, does not believe the transition to Lees’ stable will be a problem.

“He’s an easy horse to handle and he improved race by race. His improvement is not only physical, but also mentally, so he’s not hard to train,” he said.

“I think he is a very good horse, but maybe we haven’t seen the best of him yet because he’s a horse that can improve and the success from [Tuesday] is the biggest we’ve achieved so far.”

It might be the race that stops this nation, but Wohler is still waiting to find out what sort of reaction the success has provoked in Gutersloh, the north German city (between Dortmund and Hannover) where he trains, and in the rest of Germany as well.

“I haven’t had too much feedback from home because of the time difference, but as far as I know it’s quite huge. Racing in Germany today, it’s a bigger kind of sport after [Protectionist’s] success.”

Wohler has been to Australia during the carnival before. In 2001 he ran one of his star horses, Silvano, in the Cox Plate, where he finished fourth behind Northerly and three years later saddled up Paolini to run 10th – but he had not had the full Cup Day experience of saddling up a live contender in the great race before.

“Before the horses came down and out to the start I had a look around and looked at the stands and it looked like a football stadium. It was huge … amazing. “

He is still trying to come to grips with his achievement.

“It’s unbelievable. It was a long-term plan and you’ve got to have a bit of luck as well with everything going right. Everyone that has been involved with it has been fantastic, otherwise it would not have worked out.”

In this moment of triumph he still reflected on the influence of his father, Adolf, whose unexpected death propelled Wohler into taking over the trainer’s licence when he was only 24 years old.

“It was just yesterday morning when I left quarantine and I was driving back to Melbourne … I think he would have been very proud. He won the (German) Derby a couple of times and was a great trainer.”

When you win the Cup it feels like you win the freedom of the city, so great is the media and public interest in the event. Wohler might not have been presented the keys to the town hall, but he was certainly handed a blank cheque by a local cafe owner who was delighted to have won on Protectionist in the big race.

“I’m lucky enough to have some spare days now until Saturday and will enjoy an easy drive down the [Great] Ocean Road and reflect on [Tuesday],” he said on Wednesday morning.

“This morning when I came back from Werribee (the quarantine centre that has been Protectionist’s base for the past month or so) to the coffee shop I usually go to breakfast, I went to pay and they said, ‘no, we had a bet on Protectionist so breakfast is free’.

For Wohler this Cup will always be a wonderful memory.

For the connections of Japanese Caulfield Cup winner and Melbourne Cup favourite Admire Rakti and the formerly German trained Araldo, the two horses who died in its aftermath, this Cup’s memories will always be edged in black.

An autopsy revealed that Admire Rakti died from a heart attack while Araldo was put down after a freak accident when he was spooked by a flag-waving patron and kicked out, damaging his leg after he returned to scale unscathed from his exertions in finishing seventh in the race.

Wohler had reflected briefly on the fate of the two horses who died soon after he had cheered his winner home, his moment of triumph tempered by the realisation that what befell Admire Rakti and Araldo could, at any time, have happened to his horse or any other.

Impotent in the face of such a heart-rending turn of events he could merely offer his condolences and ask “what else can I say”.

Like any trainer he knows that for every moment of glory there are many more of disappointment,  and had things gone differently for Protectionist in another freak accident when he was a young horse – a collision with a deer while exercising in the forest near his German training base – the galloper may never have had a career at all, let alone one so glittering.

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