Hall of Fame trainer David Hayes has multiple Group 1 winner Criterion primed to chase back to back wins in the Group 1 $4m Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) at Randwick on Saturday.
Criterion was an emphatic winner in last year’s Queen Elizabeth Stakes and the giant chestnut stallion will head to the second day of ‘The Championships’ having his third Autumn Carnival start.
“I think he has a very good chance,” Hayes said.
“He ran very well last start and has improved out of it.”
Criterion resumed over an unsuitable distance when seventh to Holler in the Group 1 $500,000 Canterbury Stakes over 1300m at Randwick on March 5 but then showed marked improvement with a second up third behind The United States and Hauraki in the Group 1 $700,000 Ranvet Stakes (2000m) at Rosehill two weeks later.
Hayes was pleased with that run and can see the noted wet tracker getting soft conditions on Saturday with the track still rated a soft 6 on Thursday afternoon with showers forecast for Sydney in the lead up to the weekend.
“He loves these conditions and he goes well at Randwick so I wouldn’t swap him for many horses,” Hayes said.
As well as winning the 2015 Queen Elizabeth Stakes, Criterion was also successful at Group 1 level with wins in the $500,000 TAB.com.au Rosehill Guineas (2000m) at Rosehill and in the $2m BMW Australian Derby (2400m) at Randwick during the 2014 Sydney Autumn Carnival as a three year old.
And he also won the Group 1 $400,000 Ladbrokes Caulfield Stakes (2000m) at Caulfield during the 2015 Melbourne Spring Carnival.
Last Saturday’s dual Group 1 winning jockey Tommy Berry will be having his first race ride on Criterion, replacing the injured Michael Walker, and is confident that Hayes will have him spot on for his final race appearance before he heads off to stud.
“I think David Hayes has got him perfect for Saturday,” Berry said.
“I rode him in track work on Tuesday morning and he worked really well.”
“I’ve done trips to Hong Kong and jumped on horses I’ve never sat on before in Group Ones and won them so I wouldn’t see that as a problem.”
Criterion has come in for some solid support in early betting at Ladbrokes.com.au for the Queen Elizabeth Stakes, firming in from $8 to be on the second line off betting at $5.50 with the Chris Waller trained Preferment behind the Ranvet Stakes winner The United States who heads the market order at $4.20.
Hayes, who trains in partnership with Tom Dabernig, will also saddle up Irish import Dibayani and the well performed Rising Romance in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
Rising Romance’s odds have halved from $41 to $21 while Dibayani is rated a $26 chance.
Queen Elizabeth Stakes market order at Ladbrokes.com.au: $4.20 The United States, $5.50 Preferment, Criterion, $7.50 Hauraki, $8 Lucia Valentina, $12 Happy Clapper, $17 It’s Somewhat, $21 Rising Romance, $26 Dibayani, $34 Mongolian Khan, Awesome Rock, $51 Fenway, Happy Trails, $91 Leebaz, $101 Weary.