Lucia Valentina was the big winner of the 2015 Hong Kong Cup barrier draw that was conducted this afternoon, but fellow Australian-trained hopeful Criterion will need some luck in running after he drew towards the outside of the field for the Group 1 event at Sha Tin on Sunday.
Lucia Valentina will jump from barrier five with Damien Oliver in the saddle and the leading hoop will have plenty of options where to settle the talented mare in the early stages of the race.
The daughter of Savabeel made a slow start to her 2015 Spring Racing Carnival campaign and she produced flat performances in the Group 1 Epsom Handicap (1600m) at Royal Randwick on October 3 and the Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m) on October 17, but she returned to a semblance of her best form with an impressive victory in the Group 2 Matriarch Stakes (2000m) at Flemington on November 7.
Criterion did not have the same luck at the 2015 Hong Kong Cup barrier draw and he will jump from barrier 13 with Craig Williams on his back.
The four-time Group 1 winner has shown plenty of tactical versatility during his racing career to date and Williams may have elect to follow the same tactics used by jockey Hugh Bowman 12 months ago and push forward on the Sebring entire.
Criterion has not had a lengthy stint in the spelling paddock for 18 months, but he has raced in career best form in this period and is yet to produce a poor performance since he returned from a trip to the United Kingdom.
He made his Australian racing return with an impressive victory in the Group 1 Ladbrokes Caulfield Stakes (2000m) at Caulfield on October 10 and he was far from disgraced when second behind Winx in the Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) at Moonee Valley on October 24 and an unlucky third in the Group 1 Melbourne Cup (3200m).
One of the other big winners of the 2015 Hong Kong Cup barrier draw was last year’s winner Designs On Rome, who is set to receive a lovely run in transit from barrier five.
Designs On Rome added another Group 1 victory to his racing resume when he took out the Group 1 Hong Kong Gold Cup (2000m) in March and he was not disgraced when sixth in the Group 2 Jockey Club Mile (1600m) at Sha Tin on November 21.
Dermot Weld-trained Free Eagle is the other horse that will be in the fight for favouritism in Hong Kong Cup betting markets and he will jump from barrier nine.
Free Eagle scored the biggest win of his racing career when he took out the Group 1 Prince Of Wales’s Stakes (2012m) at Royal Ascot in June and he was far from disgraced when third in the Group 1 Irish Champion Stakes (2011m) at Leopardstown on September 12 and sixth in the Group 1 Prix De L’Arc De Triomphe (2400m) at Longchamp on October 4.
Other key Hong Kong Cup barrier draws include Blazing Speed (barrier two), Military Attack (barrier one), Dan Excel (barrier eight), Staphanos (barrier 11), Gailo Chop (barrier seven), Beauty Only (barrier ten) and Nuovo Record (barrier three).