Co-trainer David Hayes is confident that Criterion can sprint well fresh when he returns to racing in the 2015 Canterbury Stakes at Royal Randwick on Saturday.
Criterion has generally produced his best performances over staying trips, winning the Group 1 Rosehill Guineas (2000m) and Group 1 Australian Derby (2400m) in Sydney last year, but he won the Group 2 Todman Stakes (1200m) as a two-year-old and he finished third behind Tiger Tees first-up in the Group 2 Warwick Stakes (1400m) at Royal Randwick during the 2014 Spring Racing Carnival.
The Sebring entire hit the line strongly when he took part in an exhibition gallop over alongside stablemate Orator at Sandown a fortnight and Hayes is confident that the four-year-old will be more than competitive over 1300 metres in the Group 1 Canterbury Stakes (1300m) this weekend.
“His gallop was terrific and we have taken a view to present him a bit fresh on Saturday,” Hayes told Sky Racing HQ.
“We want to peak him hopefully for the Queen Elizabeth, but I think that he will sprint well fresh.
“He is a classy horse, he has a huge action and a good attitude.
“I think that he might race better on the Sydney leg, even though he is very effective in Melbourne, but I think that in Sydney he is brilliant.
“Hopefully he will sprint well fresh.”
Criterion had six race starts during the 2014 Spring Racing Carnival, highlighted by a second place finish behind Fawkner in the Group 1 Caulfield Stakes (2000m), before he was sent to Hong Kong where he finished a brave third behind Designs on Rome and Military Attack in the Group 1 Hong Kong Cup (2000m) at Sha Tin on December 14.
Hayes said that Criterion did not have the chance to have a proper stint in the spelling paddock after returning to Australia, but he believes that the four-year-old took plenty of benefit from a freshen-up ahead of his autumn campaign.
“What he had was what I call a freshen-up,” Hayes said.
“He spent three weeks at a box just box walking, which is very common in Hong Kong, and then he came on and I put him out in the paddock during the day and brought him in at night.
“We gave him water walking exercise on his downtime.”
Criterion will contest the Group 1 George Ryder Stakes (1500m) at Rosehill Gardens on March 21 after running in the Canterbury Stakes before he steps back up to 2000 metres for the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) at Royal Randwick on April 11.