Criterion will take on some of the highest-rated horses in the world when he contests the 2015 Juddmonte International Stakes at York on August 19 and assistant trainer Ben Hayes admits that a top three finish is the goal for the five-year-old in the Group 1 event.
Criterion finished a gallant fifth behind Free Eagle in the Group 1 Prince Of Wales’s Stakes (2012m) during the 2015 Royal Ascot Meeting, but he will face an even tougher chance when he takes on the likes of Epsom Derby winner Golden Horn, 2000 Guineas winner Gleneagles and Roger Charlton-trained Time Test in the feature event of the Ebor Festival.
Ben Hayes, the son of trainer David Hayes, believes that Criterion will be more suited by the conditions in the Juddmonte International Stakes than he was in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes, but he told The Racing Post that the stable is fully aware of the task at hand in just under a fortnight.
“He was a little keen [at Ascot], so we have exchanged the blinkers for cheek-pieces to try and stop that,” Hayes said.
“York should suit him better than Ascot because it is flat like our tracks in Australia, much less undulating than Ascot.
“Our main aim is to finish in the first three and we shall ride him to place.
“Obviously we’re there to win but we are realistic as to his chances.”
While Hayes is unsure whether Criterion is a winning chance in the Juddmonte International Stakes, he is thrilled with the condition of the Sebring entire heading into the Group 1 event.
Hayes revealed that the stable have changed the training techniques used with Criterion following his run in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes and he said that the triple Group 1 winner had responded well to a more English preparation.
“We have changed his training since Ascot,” Hayes said.
“When we first arrived we were keen to train him ‘Aussie style’ on the flat and over further.
“After Ascot he had three weeks spelling at Longholes Stud where he was in the paddock and on light exercise.
“Since he returned he has been trained in the string with John Gosden‘s horses.
“He has been trained in a more European style and has been doing two canters daily up Warren Hill as well as regular gallops.
“He worked over a mile this morning and ran home the last 600 metres and we were very happy.
“William Buick was pleased with where he is and it is full steam to the race.
“This training has suited him, he looks great and seems in a better place.”
Criterion will return to Australia after he runs in the Juddmonte International Stakes and he will contest the Group 1 Caulfield Stakes (2000m) at Caulfield on October 10 in the lead-up to the Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) a fortnight later.
The Queen Elizabeth Stakes winner is currently available at 2015 Cox Plate odds of $12 with Ladbrokes and he is on the third line of betting behind Arod and Contributer.