The 2015 Melbourne Cup is now on the agenda for Criterion and jockey Michael Walker is confident that the four-time Group 1 winner can run out a strong 3200 metres in ‘the race that stops a nation’ at Flemington on November 3.
Criterion has generally produced his best form at 2000 metres and he has recorded three Group 1 victories over the distance, but he showed that he was capable of running out a staying trip when he finished a fast-finishing fourth in the 2013 edition Group 1 Victoria Derby (2500m) and took out the Group 1 Australian Derby (2400m) last year.
Walker said that he is keen to get through the Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) at Moonee Valley on October 24 with Criterion before he focuses on the Melbourne Cup, but the talented hoop told Racing Ahead that the five-year-old gives him the impression that he will have no problems running out a strong 3200 metres.
“When I got up, he will do his gallop, pull up after the line and he in unstressed by anything,” Walker said.
“His breathing is good and he feels like he can go another lap.
“I don’t think the distance is going to worry him, but we still have to get over the hurdle of the Cox Plate first and then on to the Melbourne Cup.”
Walker has ridden Criterion in track work on a number of occasions since he joined the Lindsay Park team, but he had his first race ride on the talented entire in the Group 1 Caulfield Stakes (2000m) on Saturday.
Walker said that he went into the Caulfield Stakes feeling fairly confident after Criterion worked strongly at the Werribee International Equine Centre in the lead-up to the race, but Walker said that he could not have been more impressed with the way that the new Cox Plate favourite performed in the Group 1 event.
“I worked him at Werribee on the Wednesday leading into that race and he gave me a beautiful feel,” Walker said.
“He pulled up really good and it was stress free work, but they still have to go to the races to tighten up on the inside.
“They weren’t going super-fast and for him to pick-up, come around them and beat the class of horse that he did was phenomenal.
“His will to win is enormous.”
Criterion is currently available at 2015 Cox Plate odds of $5.50 with Ladbrokes and he is now a narrow favourite in betting from Kermadec ($6.50), Winx ($7), Highland Reel ($8), Arod ($9), Press Statement ($9) and Fawkner ($10).