Leading racing analyst Daniel O’Sullivan has Criterion on top of his 2015 Queen Elizabeth Stakes tips and believes that the talented entire should almost be favourite in the Group 1 event at Royal Randwick this weekend.
Criterion has not won a race since he was victorious in the Group 1 Australian Derby (2400m) 12 months ago, but he finished a gallant third behind Designs On Rome and Military Attack in the Group 1 Hong Kong Cup (2000m) in December last year before he returned to Australian racing with impressive efforts in the Group 1 Canterbury Stakes (1300m) at Royal Randwick on March 7 and the Group 1 George Ryder Stakes (1500m) at Rosehill Gardens on March 21.
O’Sullivan told RSN that the George Ryder Stakes has arguably been the hottest form race of the 2015 Sydney Autumn Racing Carnival to date and he believes that Criterion will prove very tough to beat if he is able to replicate that effort in the 2015 Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
“I really like Criterion in this race and the $8 was an outstanding price, I have him at about $4.80,” O’Sullivan said.
“He has been set for this race all along and both of his runs this prep over unsuitable distances were excellent.
“That George Ryder was one of the strongest form races of the autumn so far and he was just nosed out by Real Impact and two lengths ahead of Kermadec and Royal Descent and those three horses came out and filled the trifecta in the Doncaster, so it well and truly backed up that figure.
“On that rating he is hot on the heels on Contributer as the two best last start performances in this race and importantly Criterion was only second-up last start and he comes into this race third-up over a more suitable 2000 metres so he has a bit of scope to improve there.
“The last time we saw him at 2000 metres was in the Hong Kong Cup on International Day and that was truly a world class race won by Designs On Rome, who is in the top three or four race horses in the world.
“Criterion sat second in that run on an even pace, battled on really well and was only claimed in the last 100.
“The figures out of that race were serious Group 1 quality and he comes into this race off a very strong second-up rating over 1500, he is going to a more suitable distance over 2000 metres and with a soft run from barrier four there he is likely to position up within a couple of lengths of the lead.
“He looks highly probably to rate somewhere between what he did last start, which would be hard to beat in this race, and what he did in Hong Kong, which could well and truly win this race.”
Contributer is currently available at 2015 Queen Elizabeth Stakes odds of $3.70 and is a narrow favourite in the betting market with Ladbrokes, but O’Sullivan believes that the Godolphin import does not represent a great deal of value at his current quote.
While O’Sullivan rates the chances of Criterion, he admits that there is plenty of talent in the 2015 Queen Elizabeth Stakes field and he would not be surprised if Contributer, Tosen Stardom or To The World were able to take out the $4 million race.
“I have no knock on Contributer and what he has been doing, but it is purely an issue with price for me and I think $5 is more like a fair price,” O’Sullivan said,
“To The World was pretty solid behind Hartnell, but he did have his chance.
“I think in this race you are really speculating how much improvement for him to make and the same applies to Tosen Stardom because what they did last start was not good enough to win this race.
“As we know with the benefit of that run they certainly have the scope to make that improvement and it is just a matter of how much you forecast those horses to improve.”
Adelaide is the only other horse available at single figure Queen Elizabeth Stakes odds, but O’Sullivan said that he could not back the Cox Plate winner at that price first-up against such a quality field.