A standout performer over the 2014 Autumn Carnival, trainer David Payne is hopeful classy stayer Criterion will figure in contention in this afternoon’s Group 1 Caulfield Stakes (2000m) ahead of his major target this time, the Cox Plate.
Securing a commendable record of five wins and a further six minor places from just 19 competitive starts so far, Criterion finished a promising third in the Group 2 Warwick Stakes (1400m) first-up on August 23rd, and while disappointing when beating just one runner home in the Group 2 Chelmsford Stakes (1600m) on September 6th, returned to competitive form when second to Junoob in the Group 2 Hill Stakes (2000m) on September 20th; form which was franked last weekend when the Chris Waller-trained stayer comfortably took out the Group 1 Metropolitan (2400m).
Expecting a relatively unheralded field and instead finding arguably the Caulfield Guineas Day’s most talent-filled line-up, Payne said the Cox Plate remains the major target for the Sebring entire this time in but conceded he is unsure whether or not a Caulfield Stakes victory is on the cards this afternoon.
“I thought this would be a weaker race, an easier lead-up to the Cox Plate,” Payne told the Herald Sun.
“But what a race – wow! Such a tough field.
“Junoob has made out form look respectable by winning again last week, but I doubt Junoob could win a Caulfield Stakes so there is no doubt Criterion has to step up.
“He’s never been better and he has made good improvement since the Craven Plate.
“I just want to see him run a good race because we still want to go to the Cox Plate; that’s the race he has been aimed at this spring.”
Steadily building to the task over the 2013 Spring Carnival which peaked with strong runs for second in both the Group 2 Stan Fox Stakes (1500m) and Group 1 Spring Champion Stakes (2000m) and fourth in the Victoria Derby (2500m), Criterion without doubt returned to racing in career best form over the autumn season this year; finishing second in the Group 1 Australian Guineas (1600m) on March 1st and building towards back-to-back victories in the Group 1 Rosehill Guineas (2000m) and Group 1 Australian Derby (2400m).
Allocated the ideal barrier 3 and confirmed to be partnered by jockey Hugh Bowman, Criterion is currently available at generous odds of $14 for success or $4 to run a place in the 2014 Caulfield Stakes at Ladbrokes Australia.