Triple Group 1 winner Criterion produced a gallant performance to finish a credible fifth behind Dermot Weld-trained Free Eagle in the 2015 Prince Of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot this morning.
Criterion jumped from the gates strongly and he was settled in a lovely position on the rails behind the leader by jockey Chad Schofield in the early stages of the race.
The Sebring entire looked as though he was going to be blocked for a run in the straight before Schofield found a clear passage for the four-year-old hard on the rail and at the 200 metre mark he looked like a winning chance, but was unable to match Free Eagle, The Grey Gatsby and Western Hymn in the final stages and he could finish no better than fifth.
Trainer David Hayes said that he was satisfied with the performance of Criterion in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes, but he was clearly disappointed that the conditions did not suit the Queen Elizabeth Stakes winner – who is arguably the best wet-tracker in Australia.
“I thought it was a pass mark without raving,” Hayes said after the race.
“You come to England and it normally rains doesn’t it, but he’s a sound horse and I thought he was game because it looked like he was going to get beaten a good margin.
“He kept kicking back, he was OK.”
Schofield revealed after the race that he thought that Criterion was ready to sprint into the race at the 200 metre mark after receiving a lovely run in transit, but he said that the talented entire clearly died on his run before fighting back bravely in the final stages to finish within a length of the placings.
“He put himself right in the race and he had cover the whole way,” Schofield said.
“The leader (Gailo Chop) rolled off the fence and gave me a beautiful run up through on the inside.
“He came off the bridle nicely like he was going to sprint and be right in the finish.
“Then he sort of peaked on his run a bit but I thought he was brave to keep battling the way he did.”
Free Eagle was one of ten international horses that were invited to contest the Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) during the 2015 Spring Racing Carnival, but he is likely to remain in Europe for the Group 1 Irish Champion Stakes and the Group 1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe later in the year.
The Grey Gatsby was also invited to contest the Cox Plate, but the Eclipse Stakes and King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes both loom as more likely targets for the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes runner-up.