Heading to Ballarat in winter isn’t always an appealing excursion, but Robert Smerdon can’t wait to get back there on Monday, reports Racing Victoria.

That is when the trainer will catch up on the progress of his classy imported mare Noble Protector.

The five-year-old daughter of Haafhd has proven herself an exciting prospect and Smerdon, who this week arrived home from three weeks in Europe, is keen to see how she progressed during his time away.

“She’s at our Ballarat stable at the moment - they don’t get too long off - and she’s been there for over a month just going through the early stages (of her preparation),” Smerdon, whose main base is at Caulfield, told Racing.com's Racing Ahead on RSN.

“I’m only back 24 hours, but I’ll be there on Monday to have another look at her.”

Noble Protector swiftly showcased her ability in Australia, finishing second to subsequent multiple Group 1-winner Contributer in the Group 3 David Jones Cup (2000m) on Caulfield Cup Day before a fourth placing in the 2600m Queen Elizabeth Stakes.

WATCH: Noble Protector’s Matron Stakes win



She was kept to 1600m races during the autumn and won the Group 3 Matron Stakes and Group 2 Sunline Stakes in Melbourne before a third placing in the Group 1 Queen Of The Turf at Randwick in Sydney.

The winner of five of her 14 starts is high up in many Cox Plate markets, but Smerdon said one of his jobs in coming weeks was to devise a Spring campaign for her.

“We haven’t set a program for her just yet, there are obvious options, but we want to try and win a Group 1 with her,” Smerdon said.

“She went close in Sydney and that’s the aim, to try and slot her into a Group 1 through the Spring somewhere.”

The $3 million Cox Plate (2040m) will be run at Moonee Valley on 24 October, but if Smerdon decides to keep her to mile races there is the $500,000 Group 1 Myer Classic at Flemington the following week.