Consistent colt Criterion will return to the races in the Group 3 The Run To The Rose (1200m) at Rosehill Gardens on Saturday after performing well in three barrier trial appearances.
Trainer David Payne made sure that the son of Sebring would go into his first-up assignment with a solid fitness base by giving him three trials against tough fields at Rosehill Gardens in the last month.
Criterion finished fourth in each of his visits to the trials but indicated that he had returned for his 2013 Spring Racing Carnival preparation in excellent condition after his lengthy juvenile campaign.
Payne believes that Criterion has matured after a stint in the spelling paddock and is confident he will be a contender for the three-year-old races over longer distances later in the spring with the Group 1 Caulfield Guineas (1600m) and Group 1 Spring Champion Stakes (2000m) both on the agenda.
“He had a good spell and has developed,” Payne told AAP.
“He has always been a lean horse, and he still is, but is a bit taller and will appreciate it when the races get longer.
“The idea is to get to the Golden Rose and after that we will decide whether he goes to the Caulfield Guineas or stays in Sydney and heads to the Spring Champion Stakes over the 2000 metres.”
While the fillies generally dominated the two-year-old ranks during the 2013 Autumn Racing Carnival, Criterion was arguably the most consistent performing colt and finished his debut preparation with three wins from six starts.
The three-year-old started his career with a win in the Lidoran Group Plate (1100m) at Rosehill in November and began his autumn campaign when finishing third behind Never Can Tell in the Listed Canonbury Stakes (1100m).
He returned to the winners circle in the Listed Black Opal Stakes (1200m) in Canberra before recording the biggest win off his career with a narrow victory over Fast ‘N’ Rocking in the Group 2 Todman Stakes (1200m) at Rosehill.
The classy colt made the step-up to Group 1 level in the Golden Slipper (1200m) but missed the start and was never a winning chance, while he got too far back in the field in the Group 1 Champagne Stakes (1600m) before running on well for sixth.
Payne is chasing his first victory in the Golden Rose after Masquerader was beaten as the favourite in the 2010 edition of the race.