Two-time Group 1 winner Criterion impressed onlookers as well as jockey Michael Walker with his performance in an exhibition gallop at Sandown this afternoon.
Criterion galloped over 1000 metres with stablemate Orator in his first public appearance since his brave third place finish in the Group 1 Hong Kong Cup (2000m) at Sha Tin in December 6 and he gave the imported galloper a several lengths start before running past him to record an impressive win in a time of 33.62 seconds for the final 600 metres.
Walker could not have been more impressed with the effort of Criterion and he told TVN that the son of Sebring picked up effortlessly without being asked for an extra effort.
“I didn’t move on him, I just clicked him up with my mouth and he picked up himself,” Walker said.
“In the end I had to slow him down because he was going to go right away from the other horse.
“His action is unbelievable.
“He would be as nice an actioned horse as I’ve ridden, it was just beautiful, really fluent.
“He gave me a beautiful feel.
“I rode him last preparation, but he’s a totally different horse now; he is so much strong and more clued on.
“He’s a lovely animal and he’s going to have an amazing preparation.”
Criterion was the star three-year-old of the 2014 Sydney Autumn Racing Carnival and he took out the Group 1 Rosehill Guineas (2000m) in dominant fashion before he toughed out a narrow win in the Group 1 Australian Derby (2400m) a fortnight later.
Hayes believes that Criterion is a better horse the Sydney way of going and he confirmed that the four-year-old would likely return to racing in the Group 1 Canterbury Stakes (1300m) at Royal Randwick on March 7 before potentially contesting the Group 1 George Ryder Stakes (1500m) at Rosehill Gardens on March 21 ahead of the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) at Royal Randwick on April 11.
“I think he has come back extra well,” Hayes said.
Criterion has raced exclusively at Stakes level since he won on debut at Rosehill Gardens in November of 2012 and he has been a consistent performer at the highest level of racing from 1200 metres right up to 2400 metres.
The Hong Kong Cup placegetter is currently available at 2015 Queen Elizabeth Stakes odds of $17 with Ladbrokes, while To The World ($5) is now a clear favourite from Adelaide ($6.50), Protectionist ($8), Contributer ($9) and Tosen Stardom ($9).