Kris Lees is optimistic about Melbourne Cup winner Protectionist returning to his best this spring as he prepares for another Cup campaign.

The Melbourne Cup winner has returned to work at Newcastle, having had a six-week spell after his disappointing Sydney Cup run when he emerged from the race with an injury.

“It’s still early days in his preparation but he seems fine at the moment,” Lees said.

“He’ll be re-evaluated by vets in Sydney probably within the next ten days, but I’m expecting that to go fine.”

Tests conducted on Protectionist after the Sydney Cup determined the horse had severe bone bruising to a knee.

“The scintigraphy suggested they would probably see a chip or a fracture but when they did the radiographs, that wasn’t the case,” Lees said.

“That was probably a positive, if there is such a thing, so now we’re just going to have it re-evaluated again but he seems sound and it doesn’t seem to be giving him any concern at the moment.”

Should things go as Lees expects, the trainer will then get more serious with the stayer’s work.

“He’s doing plenty of trot and cantering now but that will give us the all clear to start going a bit faster and getting closer to a barrier trial,” he said.

Connections are yet to decide on a spring path towards the Melbourne Cup but Lees said Protectionist is likely to campaign mostly in Victoria.

“He could start off in Sydney but we’ll cross that bridge as we get closer,” he said.

Protectionist was dominant in winning last year’s Melbourne Cup when prepared by German trainer Andreas Wohler before the horse’s Australian owners transferred him to Lees.

The son of Monsun went winless in four autumn starts with his best finish a fifth in the Group One BMW.

Lees believes Protectionist can show his staying prowess again when he gets to suitable trips this spring.

“Obviously he didn’t come up as well as we were hoping for in the autumn but I think there were contributing factors to that,” Lees said.

“I think now that he’s had that break, I think he’ll be hopefully getting somewhere back where he was.”