Criterion returned to Australian racing with an impressive win in the Group 1 Caulfield Stakes (2000m), but co-trainer David Hayes believes that the star entire will be even better in the 2015 Cox Plate at Moonee Valley on Saturday.
Criterion travelled halfway around the world following his win in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) at Royal Randwick on April 11 and he performed well without winning in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Cup (2000m) at Sha Tin on April 26, the Group 1 Prince Of Wales’s Stakes (2011m) at Royal Ascot on June 17 and the Group 1 Juddmonte International Stakes (2092m) at York on August 19, but he was able to come from the tail of the field to beat Happy Trails and Mongolian Khan in the Caulfield Stakes at Caulfield on October 10.
Hayes warned before Criterion’s return to racing that his rivals would struggle to beat him in the Cox Plate if they could not best him in the Caulfield Stakes and the leading trainer confirmed that the son of Sebring had taken the improvement that he expected ahead of the Australasian Weight-For-Age Championship.
“As you would hope, he has just continued to improve and thrive,” Hayes told RSN.
“Everything has gone to plan.
“He has a great barrier.
“I think that he has improved.
“He is a horse that can make a long sustained run and what I loved about his Caulfield Stakes run was that his last 600 was better than any race on the day.
“Sectionals sometimes don’t lie for the best horses.
“There is a heap of pressure, a very strong horse will win it and hopefully it is him.”
Criterion did not head out to Moonee Valley for Breakfast With The Best yesterday morning and he instead completed his final piece of track work at Lindsay Park’s Euroa base this morning.
Hayes said that Criterion was not asked to break any records in track work this morning, but he was still happy with his effort and he confirmed that the four-time Group 1 winner would follow a routine he picked up while in the United Kingdom in the lead-up to the Cox Plate.
“He just did his final piece of work this morning and came through in flying colours,” Hayes said.
“He will just taper into the work now.
“He worked over a mile, it was quite leisurely work, and off his English routine he will do long slow canters into the race.”
Criterion is currently available at 2015 Cox Plate odds of $6 with Ladbrokes and he is on the second line of betting behind Highland Reel ($5).