David Payne-trained colt Criterion will head towards next month’s $3.5 million Group 1 2013 Golden Slipper (1200m) after pressing his claims when winning the $250,000 Black Opal Stakes at Canberra on Sunday.
The immature two-year-old gave an insight into his ability when storming down the outside to claim a half-length win over Darley colt Sidestep.
In his previous starts he was third in the Canonbury Stakes in February and also beat Silver Slipper winner Sweet Idea on debut in November.
The son of 2008 Golden Slipper winner, Sebring, will attempt to become the first horse since Catbird in 1999 to claim the Black Opal-Golden Slipper double.
Payne is not bothered by the piece of history and is confident his charge can mix it with the country’s best juveniles on Slipper Day.
“Out of all the two-year-olds going around, he has the most improvement,” Payne said.
“He beat Sweet Idea and that filly came out and won in Sydney last week but he has got more improvement than all of them.”
Saturday’s win saw Criterion’s prize pool increase to $208,750 which easily guarantees him a start in the world’s richest two-year-old race.
Despite his early career success, Criterion is still a $61 chance in the early Golden Slipper market at bookmaker.com.au.
Current favourite is Gai Waterhouse-trained filly Overreach ($4.40) who won the Listed Widden Stakes by six lengths last month and Waterhouse believes she will be even better come the Slipper.
“She has continued to improve since her devastating first-up win,” Waterhouse said.
Second favourite at $8 is unbeaten Victorian filly Villa Verde who is followed by Assail ($15), Charlie Boy ($16), Safeguard ($16) and Sweet Idea ($16).
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