Protectionist emerged from Saturday’s Sydney Cup with an obvious physical problem, but trainerKris Lees suspects a less-identifiable more serious issue was the reason behind his poor showing, reports

The Melbourne Cup winner completed an unplaced four-start debut preparation for the Newcastle trainer with a seventh placing in the Group 1 Sydney Cup (3200m).

Lees reported that the five-year-old had ‘ripped off the bumpers’ on all four legs during the running of the Sydney Cup, which caused him to pull up with tender spots on Sunday morning.

It was the first time Protectionist had injured himself in that manner, which was of concern to Lees, but his priority is to find out why.

“We’re sending him for scintigraphy tests in the next few days,” Lees said. “Hopefully it’s nothing serious.

“To rip your bumpers off like that – he’s never touched his bumpers before – it suggests he’s lost his action in some way, but what’s caused it we don’t know.

“If he’d never been on a wet track, you’d say it was the wet track – and I wish that was just the problem – but I’m expecting we’re going to find something a bit worse.

“Hopefully it’s nothing major, but the scintigraphy will show up the problem.”

The ‘bumpers’ are located just above the back of the hoof and can get struck by a horse’s own hooves galloping at high speed.

“They (abrasions) were a bigger than a 50-cent piece and it was on all four legs,” Lees said of the injuries. “If you could imagine the worse blister you’ve ever had on your heel, he had them as big as a 50-cent piece on all four of his heels.”

The Sydney Cup ended a disappointing campaign for Lees with Protectionist, who won the Melbourne Cup under the care of legendary German trainer Andreas Wohler.

After a first-up sixth in the Group 2 Peter Young Stakes (1800m), he was eighth in the Group 1 Australian Cup (2000m) before a fifth placing in the Group 1 The BMW (2400m).

Protectionist will be joined in the spelling paddock by stablemate Lucia Valentina, who finished a 5-3/4-length sixth behind Criterion in the $4 million Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m).

Lees considered the effort “satisfactory” and confirmed last year’s Group 1 Turnbull Stakes winner and beaten Caulfield Cup favourite would race on, but at what level he is not yet sure.

“She’s going to race on another season,” he said. “We’ll assess closer to the time what we target in the spring, whether we go to the better races or just pull her back a peg and stick to the mares’ type of races.”