Dreaming of leading in the winner of the Melbourne Cup normally happens pretty quickly after you get involved in our great game. But Luke Murrell actually lived that dream this week as a part-owner of the emphatic Cup winner Protectionist. He has been a regular Champion Picks contributor over a number of years so we were excited for him in that he achieved a lifelong goal. We were also very happy to hear how many of you had followed his strong advice and backed the horse to win the big race. So he’s back for an encore performance on the podcast this week to tell us exactly what it’s like to live the Melbourne Cup dream.

Punting Insights You’ll Find:

  • The little things that make Andreas Wohler a champion trainer
  • His thoughts on globetrotting Group 1 winning jockey Ryan Moore
  • The local and overseas plans for Protectionist in 2015
  • How the search is on for the next champion stayer

Today’s Guest: Luke Murrell

David Duffield: Luke Murrell, great to have you back on the show.

Luke Murrell: Yes. It’s good to be back after Tuesday. A surreal couple of days.

David Duffield: Just a few media commitments the last couple of days?

Luke Murrell: Yes. The media didn’t finish until about 11 the night of the Cup and then we had a little party after that and I started at 5 the next morning and went all day. I certainly enjoyed the sleep last night.

David Duffield: Good to hear. So what does it feel like to lead in the winner of the Melbourne Cup? It must have been dreams come true really.

Luke Murrell: Absolutely. The first feeling was of, ‘go you good thing’ type thing and then it was relief and then a bit of, ‘Holy shit it did happen.’ Naturally, as an owner you always see your horse a little bit differently, but I was very confident leading into it. It looked a little bit dicey there for a 100m or so, just how far back he was, but thankfully he got the runs and did well.

David Duffield: I’m sure you talk about race plans quite a bit. Was there any one there where you had to cop a squeeze at the start and had to go a bit further back. Was there a plan C or D?

Luke Murrell: I was lucky enough to speak to him and he’s a thorough professional himself naturally but obviously he didn’t know the Aussie horses but we did highlight that you watch every race, every Melbourne Cup and there’s always buffeting straight out of those gates. I said, ‘If you do get a squeeze, don’t panic. We’ve just got to get off from the 1200.’ That was the plan, it didn’t really matter as long as we weren’t caught wide. I said, ‘Look either go forward or, go forward the first 100 to get in,’ and certainly we knew there was a huge amount of speed. We didn’t want to be anywhere near there. At the same time I didn’t think we’d be 3rd last. We did say, ‘Look if you do get a squeeze, which often happens. Just slot him over on the fence.’ Many horses were going to be caught wide and it really helped us speed wise later in the race.

David Duffield: What did you think at the turn because he looked at a lap full of horse and following a couple of really strong chances but you still needed a bit of luck.

Luke Murrell: Yes. I think his intention was to head to the outside and the gap closed and he had Signoff there. We’d marked 2 or 3 horses that we thought would give us a cart deeper into the race and naturally there was a few there that were always going to be suspect at trip or going backwards. That was our main worry going into it and he gave him a peach and we followed the right horses and the gap did close. Ryan said he could have won by further if we’d got out a bit further but he didn’t think he would just explode like he did. He said, ‘He could have went another 1000m and widened the gap.’

Which is not really what you want, a 4000m horse but it’s just good to see that he’s so strong and dominant. It’s funny, you saw Red Cadeaux and Who Shot Thebarman and decent horses in their own right. They were just heaving after the race and our fellow had come back and had already got his wind and by the time he was back to the stalls, or most of it. That’s exciting for me from a form point of view, knowing that he’s got so much up his sleeve there to use later on.

David Duffield: That’s a little bit freakish isn’t it because the times are so strong and his last 200m was unbelievable, yet you’re saying it didn’t take as much out of him as you’d think.

Luke Murrell: The Vet rang this morning and he said, ‘He’s pulled up so much better than he did after Caulfield,’ and he pulled up terrific there. Never really had any dramas with the horse. Lucas Cranach, and another horse we had Hathras, they were the same, they’ve just got this amazing … all the horses around them are obviously bloody tired. Ryan said he had so much more horse there, if he needed to he had a bit more to use. That’s exciting. I think again you see, even though it was obviously not a race that distances are run over a lot in Australia but he travels so deeply on the bit so that gives me a bit of excitement. Going forward to say we can sharpen him up and he can sprint well at 2000m. The way the Australian programs is, that’s going to have to be his main aims and let’s see when he takes us.

David Duffield: When you reviewed the sectional times. What did you find from that? You said it was a big night of celebrations and lots of media commitments and the like but just in the cold light of day, what did you find from reviewing the sectionals?

Luke Murrell: To be honest, I do all my own sectionals and don’t use the stuff that the club puts out. I haven’t had a chance to do my own yet but looking at the stuff the club put out, there was probably 2 or 3 times there he got a little bit of a buffet and there was once there his hind legs went sideways a little bit. He’s a funny one because I don’t think he was properly wound up from a 600m mark, 35 is good and as you said it’s that last 400 I’d probably take the most notice of to produce an 11, 11/1 that the sheet said. They of the last 200 and 22 or 23 for the last 400.

That’s what some of our better milers and 1400 horses are running and for him to do that in a race like that is pretty special but it’s not a surprise at the same time because they’re lucky they’ve taken overall time in Germany on some of their races. Times over there are, they think that if you get within 2 or 3 seconds of another race on the same day, it’s pretty good. It’s a foreign concept over there but on all the times I’ve done over there he’s running sprinter like sectionals which is the key to trying to find these types.

David Duffield: What about the trainer? You were a big rap for him before the win but probably even more so now. What can you tell us about Andreas Wohler?

Luke Murrell: Obviously, a genius after the race. He’s been number one trainer in Germany for quite a while. If you had to pigeon hole your trainers, Gai’s obviously renowned for getting hers rock hard fit and right on the bunny and once they leave there, there’s not a lot left. Andreas is probably a bit kinder on his horses. He’s very much a horse person, they’re not just assets in his stable. They’re individuals and horses and he does a lot of horseman like things that perhaps some of our bigger trainers wouldn’t do.

With his hands on approach I suppose. He’s actually recommended we buy another horse out of his stable and having bought out of there previously, they always train on. He’s a very good trainer and I do like the fact that you haven’t got something where there’s still a couple of squeezes left in the lemon, as he says. They’re not gutted and they’re not tired and looking to lie down type horses. That’s important for us obviously and part of our background is, you’ve got to know which trainers to avoid and which ones you can confidently buy off. Just little things. Prior to the race, he was of the opinion that Admire Rakti hadn’t trained on and didn’t look as good. He didn’t see the horse for a week when he went back to Germany.

He said to me, ‘Do you like this Mutual Regard and I said, ‘He’s a 4th to 6th type horse.’ It was his opinion he was probably doing the best out there and when he returned he said, ‘He’s just gone the wrong way.’ Just little things that obviously those horesmen, even I don’t know, the proper horsemen can pick up with their extra sense they’ve got. Very interesting guy to sit down and talk to. Like I said, he tipped us into one of his horses prior to the race. He said it was worthwhile buying, just a cheap one that he thought could go on and even after, I said, ‘We’ve won the race now, you don’t have to sell it anymore.’ He said, ‘No, I’m telling you, he’s a nice cheap little horse.’ He’s had that horse since it was a baby and it’s all very emotional for them. It’s part of business but you can tell they’re like his children. There’s a real bond there.

David Duffield: You said that Andreas does horseman like things that our bigger trainers wouldn’t do. Is there anything in there that you could expand on?

Luke Murrell: For example, we actually bought a horse that we were hoping to race over the carnival this year, a horse called Singing, a French horse. He got to his stables and their first thoughts were that Protectionist was clearly the superior horse. Singing was his name and he had a little issue with his foot but it was OK. He probably went to the races in that Group 2, sort of 80% fit. He was of the opinion that there was a fair bit of difference between the 2 horses. His wife was telling me, she said ‘He rang me on the way home and said I’ve got that horse wrong.

He said, I’ve got to do this and this but he could be a better horse. He said, I just wonder mentally, he probably wasn’t quite there. I reckon there’s something not right with him.’ He moved him boxes and by all accounts he’s moved him to a box next door to the feed shed and where everybody’s walking past. It’s the box where the horse is just constantly spoken to or a pat or some attention and where he was, was not isolated but not everyday traffic going past. Susan his wife said, ‘From that day on the horse just absolutely blossomed and was a completely different horse.

He was happy and got to the stage where he snorts and grunt because if you walked past and you didn’t say hello to him.’ She said the change in that horses attitude. She said I see that type of thing all the time. She said that’s just one example. Where most guys they’d be in the box and out doing their work and move on to the next one. Little things like that, he’d do. This particular horse, he just doesn’t like the traditional apples and carrots but he likes his sugar cubes and molasses. It’s just little things like that, she says that he knows. He’s got his own special little bits and pieces that he picks up on. It’s all very interesting. Monty Roberts gets lot of publicity and press and rightly so. I think there’s some connection there between the two and it certainly shows in how his horses go.

David Duffield: Where to from here for Protectionist because with a win like that you’ve got so many options.

Luke Murrell: We’re desperate to see what the handicapper, how he assesses him. Does he rate him off the 56.5 kg or does he rate him off what his proper weight, of 54.5, should have been. I’m assuming we get 2 or 3kg at least and if it’s off the weight he actually carried it changes things. No horse obviously won with 58.5 as Admire Rakti found out. History’s a pretty good thing, I’m not a big believer in weights but over that type of distance and you have got that type of record it’s there for a reason I suppose.

He’s a horse that we probably won’t see over raced. Andreas’ advice, he said, ‘The best thing you can do with these Monsuns is just to space their races and don’t give them too much work. They don’t need a lot of work. At this stage we’re probably thinking Australia Cup, BMW, then put him away. I’d suggest probably the Cox Plate is not an option. He’s a big striding horse that really needs to balance up to unleash. Moonee Valley certainly won’t suit him. Then again, if he gets weighted out of cups, I don’t know. We may be forced to go to Europe to race him, which would be a bit sad because I’d rather stay here and win our races. We’ll know in the next couple of days. A rough guide of where we’re going to sit in the scheme of things. It’s an unbelievable problem to have anyway.

David Duffield: Would you look at Dubai as well?

Luke Murrell: Yes. That’s been one of my dreams, to take a horse that’s good enough to go to Dubai. No doubt the horse is but without being too outlandish, you do have to beat the Sheikhs at an unfair advantage, shall we say. That’s a large deterrent. Something that probably has turned us off. We’ve had it confirmed a couple of times.

Probably, Dubai is off the cards at this stage. Hong Kong was a real, the invite is there. Andreas is of the opinion again, leave plenty in the lemon and he said it will reward you later on. He’ll probably go to Kris in the next couple of days. Kris is of the opinion do we do something like Gai did with Fiorente and give him one run in an All Age and then put him away again. At this stage, I think it will be Australia Cup and BMW and then see where we end up after that.

David Duffield: Where you’ll end up after that, if that was overseas would Kris Lees retain as the trainer or does he go back to Andreas?

Luke Murrell: I’d talk to the ownership group but I’d say he’d probably stay with Kris if everything’s going to plan and happy and it can be managed. If not, it’s a great option we’ve got Andreas to take it back to.

David Duffield: Just to finish up then. Are there any more Protectionists out there? Are you on the hunt for another one?

Luke Murrell: Yes, the horse Andreas recommended we buy a week ago, he’s not a Protectionist he’s just a good horse that sort of gets here and beats the handicappers. Andreas is of the opinion that he’s a group 3 horse yet he should get here as a benchmark 75. We hope to see him go through the grades a bit and win 4 or 5 Saturday races and make some money for the owners and make a profit.

We’ve got to find some owners for him but hopefully in the next couple of days that shouldn’t be too hard. There’s a horse that I consider a better horse than Protectionist over there. It was certainly on the way back last night in the car we made some inquiries again. We’ll just see how we go over the next week, whether we could pull that off. Protectionist is a very good horse but if you were going on the German form you would buy this horse. We’ll see how that develops. Europe’s decent racing is now over. There’s a filly that I’m trying to buy at the moment in Victoria and there’s one in New Zealand. We’ll just try to buy the local ones for the time being and wait til Europe starts up again.

David Duffield: Exciting times. If you can get your hands on these horses I don’t think finding owners for them should be a problem. The phones probably been ringing off the hook.

Luke Murrell: Yes. It’s been good. Again, for some owners they’re happy to just go to the races and have a horse run round and other guys obviously they want to have a Black Caviar type. It’s hard to tell them that’s just never going to happen. They’re going to get beat. Everyone expects something different from their horses. That’s what we’ve been able to do, is put the right people on the right horses, and get everyone with the same sort of goal in mind. When you’re dealing with a few owners obviously everyone has got an opinion and a personality. Just trying to marry everyone up and so far its worked really good.

David Duffield: I always appreciate the time you give us and hopefully I’m talking to you again, maybe this time next year or definitely during the Autumn.

Luke Murrell: Thanks very much Dave.

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