Protagonist (Wootton Bassett) winning the Gr.3 Sky High Stakes at Rosehill

First Australian Stakes-Winner for Wootton Bassett

Astute British trainer William Haggas knows exactly the type of horse to bring to an Australian carnival and he tasted success at Rosehill on Saturday when French bred Protagonist (6g Wootton Bassett x Sagariya, by Shamardal) made a winning debut at his first local appearance in the $350,000 Group III ATC Sky High Stakes (2000m).

Raced by Australian Bloodstock, Protagonist was very competitive in some good quality handicap races in the UK last year and produced his best form for James McDonald to score a tenacious head win.

Stable representative Isabella Paul was well pleased by the run.

"Delighted with him, they're only out of quarantine today. It's a tough ask to do two weeks quarantine after a long flight and come straight out on ground we weren't sure he was going to love and do that,” she said.

“What a little star and so excited for what he can do for the rest of the carnival. We'll have to wait and see how he comes out of this. He's got a few different targets, I'm sure the boss (trainer William Haggas) will be having a conversation with Australian Bloodstock and take it from there."

James McDonald was also full of praise for Protagonist who has the overall record of six wins and two placings from 24 starts with this victory his first Black Type success.

"He was good, he's a nice solid galloper. He handles himself beautifully and I think he'll improve a bit off that as well,” he said.

“He hit the front a fair way from home, stargazed a bit, just had a good look around. When they got to him he found a gear so that was impressive."

Protagonist is the best of four winners from Sagariya, a winning half-sister to French stakes-winners Sagaroi and Sagateur from the family of champions Saganeca, Sagamix, Sagacity, Sageburg as well as Group I winners Japan, Mogul and Sagawara.

Protagonist is the 30th stakes-winner for Wootton Bassett, who has been well received at Coolmore Australia in the past two seasons with his first crop of Southern Hemisphere bred foals to be offered as yearlings in 2024.