Criterion will jump from barrier one in the 2014 Australian Derby at Royal Randwick on Saturday and trainer David Payne has confirmed that he is happy with the inside draw for the promising stayer.
Criterion stamped himself as favourite for the Australian Derby with a dominant three and a half lengths victory in the Group 1 Rosehill Guineas (2000m) at Rosehill Gardens on March 29 and his odds to score a second straight win at the highest level of racing shortened when he received barrier one last night.
Payne told TVN that he was happy with the 2014 Australian Derby barrier draw for Criterion and said that it would be up to jockey Hugh Bowman to steer the Sebring colt to victory once again.
“I’d prefer to draw barrier one than 18; we are happy with that,” Payne said.
“It should allow him to get cover at the start and it is up to Hugh now.”
Criterion will be stepping up to 2400 metres for the first time since he finished fourth behind Polanski in the Group 1 Victoria Derby (2500m) at Flemington during the 2013 Spring Racing Carnival, but has shown improvement each time he has stepped up in trip this year.
The three-year-old resumed with a fourth place finish in the Group 3 CS Hayes Stakes (1400m) at Flemington on February 15 and ran on impressively when second behind Shamus Award in the Group 1 Australian Guineas (1600m) at the same venue on March 1.
Criterion was not advantaged by the condition of the track in the Royal Randwick Guineas, battling on fairly to finish eighth, but clearly relished the step-up to 2000 metres and the slow Rosehill Gardens track in the Rosehill Guineas.
Payne has been delighted with the preparation of Criterion to date and is confident that he is ready to perform in the Australian Derby this weekend.
“With a stayer, you have to keep them ticking over, make sure they have done enough work, it is all about planning ahead and having them peaking on the right day,” Payne said.
“Criterion has raced against the best from a two-year-old, all the shorter races too and he has held his own.
“All along this is the trip I thought he would excel at.”
Criterion ($3.60) is a clear favourite in 2014 Australian Derby betting markets from New Zealand Derby winner Puccini, Rosehill Guineas runner-up Thunder Fantasy ($8) and the consistent Teronado ($9).