Last Saturday’s dual Group 1 winning jockey Tommy Berry will be the new rider for Criterion in the Group 1 $4m Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) on the day two of ‘The Championships’ at Randwick on Saturday.
Berry got the call up after the Lindsay Park Team of David Hayes and Tom Dabernig had to search for a new jockey after regular rider Michael Walker declared himself out of action because a head injury.
Walker has ridden Criterion in four of his last six starts and the pair combined to win the Group 1 $400,000 Ladbrokes Caulfield Stakes (2000m) at Caulfield during the 2015 Melbourne Spring Carnival before running second to Winx in the Group 1 $3m Cox Plate (2040m) at Moonee Valley.
Walker was close to death after falling down a cliff on a pig hunting expedition in New Zealand in 2008 but finally recovery from major head injuries so he is being cautious about this latest incident.
‘’My health comes first and even though it means giving up the Criterion ride and rides on Almoonqith in the Sydney Cup and Sacred Eye in the (ATC) Oaks, then that’s what I have to do,’’ Walker told racing.com.
‘’I half fainted at home last Thursday night and the next thing I knew I was in an ambulance and spent a couple of nights in hospital.
‘’It could be that old head injury coming back. I’m not sure but I know what head injuries are like and I know that I just can’t ride.’’
Berry is riding in outstanding form and as well as winning the Group 1 $2.5m Darley T J Smith Stakes (1200m) on Chautauqua and the Group 1 $2m BMW Australian Derby (2400m) on Kiwi three year old Tavago at Randwick last Saturday, he also completed a winning treble with his victory on Clearly Innocent in the $388,000 The Country Championships Final (1400m).
The in-form Berry then made a flying trip to ride at the Hong Kong meeting at Sha Tin on Sunday and collected another winner with the John Moore trained Bad Boy in a 1000m Class 3 Handicap before running third on Designs On Rome in the Group 2 HK$4m The Chairman’s Trophy (1600m).
Criterion is chasing back to back wins in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes after winning the 2015 Sydney Autumn Carnival weight for age feature with Craig Williams in the saddle.
The five year old stallion will be having his third Autumn Carnival run this week after finishing seventh first up to Holler in the Group 1 $500,000 Canterbury Stakes (1300m) at Randwick on March 5 followed by a much improved run when third to The United States in the Group 1 $700,000 Ranvet Stakes (2000m) at Rosehill on March 19.
The widely travelled Criterion will start as one of the favourites for the Queen Elizabeth Stakes with the announcement today that Chris Waller’s super mare Winx won’t be backing up this week after winning the Group 1 $3m The Star Doncaster Mile (1600m) at Randwick last Saturday.