Criterion finished a gallant third in the Hong Kong Cup last year, but co-trainer David Hayes is confident that the four-time Group 1 winner is in better form ahead of the 2015 edition of the race at Sha Tin on Sunday.
Criterion gave Designs On Rome and Military Attack a scare before he finished third in the Group 1 Hong Kong Cup (2000m) as an outsider 12 months ago, but he has arguably gone to another level in the past 12 months after taking out the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) and Group 1 Ladbrokes Caulfield Stakes (2000m) before he finished second behind Winx in the Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) and an unlucky third in the Group 1 Melbourne Cup (3200m).
Hayes admits that he did not know a great deal about Criterion ahead of the Hong Kong Cup last year and he is confident that the Sebring entire has had a far better preparation for the race in 2015.
“When he came here last year and shook the life out of them he was 30 to 1 and this year he is probably 8 to 1, which is a better price I think,” Hayes said.
“I feel more confident about him because I know him.
“Last year I was guessing and going into the race he had this allergy to the tick wash and we couldn’t put a saddle on his back for four or five days in the lead-up.
“He has to be in better shape and his form going in with as an runner-up in a Cox Plate and an unlucky Melbourne Cup run is superior to his form the year around.”
Criterion worked strongly when he galloped on the grass at Sha Tin yesterday morning and he looked in outstanding physical condition when he galloped on the dirt at the same venue this morning.
Hayes said that jockey Craig Williams was thrilled with the feel that he received from Criterion and he said that he won’t do a great deal more with the star entire ahead of the 2015 Hong Kong Cup on Sunday.
“He had a bit of work yesterday,” Hayes said.
“Craig was happy with him and thought he showed a bit of push button acceleration, so that is enough.
“We will just be keeping him happy ahead of the big race.”
Criterion is currently available at 2015 Hong Kong Cup odds of $5.50 with Ladbrokes and he is on the third line of betting behind Designs On Rome ($5) and Free Eagle ($5).