James McDonald will ride Criterion in the 2014 Cox Plate after regular jockey Hugh Bowman failed to have his suspension for improper riding reduced by a large enough amount to ride at Moonee Valley on Saturday.
Bowman was charged with improper riding and suspended for 20 meetings for his ride on Light Up Manhattan in the Group 3 Caulfield Classic (2000m) at Caulfield on Saturday, but had his penalty reduced to 16 meetings on appeal this afternoon.
The reduced suspension means that Bowman is free to ride Johnny Murtagh-trained Mutual Regard in the Group 1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) at Flemington on November 4, but he will still miss Cox Plate Day at Moonee Valley on Saturday and Victoria Derby Day at Flemington on November 1.
Criterion’s trainer David Payne told Racing Ahead at Breakfast With The Best this morning that he would name Bowman as the Australian Derby winners Cox Plate rider, but had Caulfield Guineas winning hoop James McDonald on standby to ride his star galloper.
“He is our first choice,” Payne said.
“I will declare Hughie as the rider, but failing that James will be the back-up and he is a nice back-up to have.”
Criterion was one of a number of the horses in the 2014 Cox Plate field that galloped at Moonee Valley this morning and he impressed Payne with his maiden piece of trackwork on the tight-turning circuit.
The Sebring entire stamped himself as a leading Cox Plate contender when he finished a close second behind Fawkner in the Group 1 Caulfield Stakes (2000m) at Caulfield on October 11 and Payne believes that the four-year-old is peaking at the right time for the race that has always been his major 2014 Spring Racing Carnival target.
“I am very pleased with him,” Payne said.
“We didn’t want him to do too much and just have a look around.
“He has peaked at the right time and now we are hoping that it all goes to plan.
“He is not really a 2400 metres, 2000 I think is his best distance.
“This is why we aimed him at the Cox Plate.
“The faster the race for him the better and we are hoping that there is a lot of speed on.”
Criterion is currently available at 2014 Cox Plate odds of $8.50 and is on the fourth line of betting behind Fawkner ($4), Adelaide ($6) and Sacred Falls ($6.50).