Trainer David Payne has confirmed that the 2014 Cox Plate will be the major Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival goal for Australian Derby winner Criterion.
Criterion was sent to the spelling paddock straight after his tough win in the Group 1 Australian Derby (2400m) at Royal Randwick on April 12 and according to Payne the Sebring colt has thrived in his time away from the stable.
Payne said last month that he was still tossing up whether to set Criterion for the Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m) at Caulfield on October 18 or the Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) at Moonee Valley on October 25, but he told Sky Racing HQ this morning that he will be targeting the Australasian Weight-For-Age Championship with the two-time Group 1 winner.
“He is back and his main mission this year is the Cox Plate,” Payne said.
“He went out a boy and I think that he has come back a man.
“He has put on weight and he is a much stronger horse.
“I am quite excited about the future of him.
“Early on in his career he cost himself a few races by being a little slow out of the barriers, he was a real baby, but the latter part of the year he put it together.”
Criterion was originally purchased by owner Sir Owen Glenn to be a Golden Slipper contender, but the rising four-year-old has improved each time that he has been stepped up in distance during his racing career.
The talented galloper took out the Lidoran Group Plate (1100m), Listed Black Opal Stakes (1200m) and Group 2 Todman Stakes (1200m) as a two-year-old and was far from disgraced in both the Group 1 Golden Slipper (1200m) and Group 1 Champagne Stakes (1600m), but he made a slow start to his three-year-old preparation.
Criterion returned to a semblance of his best form with a second place finish behind Eurozone in the Group 2 Stan Fox Stakes (1500m) and flew home late to finish second in the Group 1 Spring Champion Stakes (2000m) before coming from the tail of the field to finish fourth in the Group 1 Victoria Derby (2500m).
The three-year-old started his autumn preparation with a promising fourth place finish in the Group 3 CS Hayes Stakes (1400m) at Flemington on February 15 before charging home late to finish second behind Shamus Award in the Group 1 Australian Guineas (1600m) at the same venue a fortnight later.
Criterion returned to Sydney for the Group 1 Royal Randwick Guineas (1600m) and produced one of the most disappointing performances of his career, but he relished the wet conditions a fortnight later in the Group 1 Rosehill Guineas (2000m) to score a maiden Group 1 win and proved that was no fluke with his Australian Derby victory.
Criterion is currently available at odds of $26 in the Cox Plate betting market at Ladbrokes Australia.