Criterion is set to face the toughest test of his racing career to date in the 2014 Hong Kong Cup after an outstanding field of talented gallopers were included in the selected horses for the Group 1 event at Sha Tin on December 14.
Criterion was unable to record a race win during his 2014 Spring Racing Carnival following his wins in both the Group 1 Rosehill Guineas (2000m) and Group 1 Australian Derby (2400m) in the autumn, but did enough to convince owner Sir Owen Glenn that he was worthy of a trip to Hong with his close second in the Group 1 Caulfield Stakes (2000m) and unlucky seventh in the Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m).
Roger Varian-trained Farraaj introduced himself to the Australian racing public when he finished a brave third behind Happy Trails in the Group 1 Mackinnon Stakes (2000m) at Flemington on November 1 and he has the chance to record a maiden win at Group 1 level in the Hong Kong Cup.
The Dubai Destination gelding has only had two race starts at Group 1 level and this will be the toughest test of his racing career to date, but the five-year-old is clearly on the up and beat Criterion home in the Mackinnon Stakes.
Another European representative in the Hong Kong Cup will be veteran gelding Cirrus Des Aigles, who will have the opportunity to record his seventh victory at Group 1 level and cap off what has been an outstanding racing career.
Cirrus Des Aigles will be contesting the Hong Kong Cup for the fourth time after he finished seventh behind Snow Fair in 2010, fifth behind California Memory in 2011 and third behind Akeed Mofeed last year.
The Japanese duo of Archimedes and Meiner Lacrima round out the international challengers in the 2014 Hong Kong Cup field.
The key form guide for the Hong Kong Cup will be the Group 2 Jockey Club Cup (2000m) that was held at Sha Tin on Saturday and winner Blazing Speed as well as California Memory, Designs On Rome, Endowing, Helene Super Star and Military Attack will back-up in the Group 1 event in just over a fortnights time.
Blazing Speed took out both The Stewards Cup (1600m) and The Standard Chartered Champions And Chater Cup (2400m) in Hong Kong earlier this year, while Designs On Rome is the reigning Hong Kong Horse Of The Year after he won the Group 1 Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m), Group 1 Hong Kong Derby (2000m) and Group 1 Audemars Piguet QEII Cup (2000m) in the autumn.
California Memory won the Hong Jong Cup in both 2011 and 2012, but he has not recorded a race win since he took out the 2013 edition of the Standard Chartered Champions And Chater Cup.
Criterion is set to gallop at Moonee Valley on Saturday before he leaves for Hong Kong on Monday.