Trainer David Payne is confident that Criterion will produce an improved performance when he steps up to 2000 metres in the 2014 Hill Stakes at Royal Randwick on Saturday.
Criterion started his 2014 Spring Racing Carnival campaign with a tough third behind Tiger Tees and Royal Descent in the Group 2 Warwick Stakes (1400m) at Royal Randwick on August 23, but he failed to fire and beat home just a single runner in the Group 2 Chelmsford Stakes (1600m) at Royal Randwick on September 6.
Payne told Sky Racing HQ that he has always been of the belief that Criterion is at his best over 2000 metres, a trip over which he won the Group 1 Rosehill Guineas (2000m) in dominant fashion, and is happy with the physical condition of the Sebring entire heading into the Group 2 Hill Stakes (2000m) this weekend.
“He has always been better around that mark,” Payne said.
“When you look at all his miles, it has also been a little bit sharp for him; even in the Australian Guineas he was only getting to the line in the last 50 metres.
“People are looking for excuses, but we checked him over with our physio and he is fine.
“He is well and you will see a different horse this week.
“He is looking a picture and he should get a nice track.
“I know that he can handle wet tracks, but I would still prefer the firm track.”
The Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) is the major 2014 Spring Racing Carnival goal for Criterion and Payne revealed that the four-year-old would only have one more start before he runs in the Australasian Weight-For-Age Championship.
The Group 1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m) at Flemington on October 4 or the Group 1 Caulfield Stakes (2000m) at Caulfield on October 11 is expected to be Criterion’s final race start before the Cox Plate and Payne said that he is not concerned that the talented entire is already racing over 2000 metres.
“He will only have one more run before the Cox Plate,” Payne said.
“We will target one race there and it is not that far away, it is only a month off, so it is not a problem for him.”
Hugh Bowman has ridden Criterion in his last four race starts, but he will miss the George Main Stakes meeting due to suspension and Singapore-based hoop Corey Brown will instead take the ride on Criterion in the 2014 Hill Stakes.