Jockey James McDonald has picked up the 2014 Cox Plate ride on Criterion and he believes that the talented entire is peaking at the right time for the Group 1 event at Moonee Valley on Saturday.
Hugh Bowman has been the regular rider of Criterion for his past two preparations and he steered the Sebring entire to wins in both the Group 1 Rosehill Guineas (2000m) and Group 1 Australian Derby (2400m) during the 2014 Sydney Autumn Racing Carnival, but he will miss the Cox Plate due to suspension.
While McDonald expressed his sympathy for Bowman, he was thrilled to be able to pick up the ride on Criterion in the Cox Plate and he believes that the four-year has found his best form at the right time after running home strongly to finish second in the Group 1 Caulfield Stakes (2000m) on October 11.
“It is a great pick-up ride,” McDonald told TVN.
“Due to unfortunate circumstances to Hugh, it is my fortune and hopefully I can deliver the goods for Mr. Payne.
“I chased him home a couple of times in the Rosehill Guineas and the (Australian) Derby there.
“His performances are very good, obviously he has taken a bit of time to warm up here, but his best performance was last week and he is peaking for the right time isn’t he.”
McDonald has never previously ridden Criterion under race conditions, but he got a feel of the two-time Group 1 winner at Breakfast With The Best at Moonee Valley on Tuesday morning.
Criterion was having his first look at the tight-turning Moonee Valley circuit and McDonald was happy with the way that he got around the circuit and is confident that the David Payne-trained galloper will be at his peak for the Cox Plate this weekend.
“He was very laidback in his work, but he had a good look around,” McDonald said.
“He will benefit a lot from today’s experience and he is looking really well.
“I was really happy with the way that he felt, the way that he looks and he is in really good form.”
Criterion is currently available at 2014 Cox Plate odds of $8 and is on the third line of betting at Ladbrokes behind Fawkner ($4.20), Sacred Falls ($6) and Adelaide ($6.50).
McDonald is having his third ride in the Cox Plate after missing the placings on Glass Harmonium in 2012 and It’s A Dundeel in 2013.