Sydney trainer David Payne is hoping the booking of globetrotting hoop Craig Williams can give his ‘forgotten’ galloper Criterion the upper hand in Saturday’s Victoria Derby 2013.
The Sebring colt is on way to a shot at the big time with a victory in the $1.5 million Group 1 AAMI Victoria Derby (2500m) at Flemington this weekend.
Currently Criterion is one of five single-figure fancies in the pre-field Victoria Derby betting markets paying $9.50 to upset the Peter Snowden-trained Complacent ($4) and last weekend’s Moonee Valley Vase winner Savvy Nature ($4.40).
Like the favourite Complacent, Criterion will go into the Derby off a three week break not having run since the Group 1 Spring Champion Stakes (2000m) at Randwick.
There they were far from disgraced when one and a quarter lengths away second to Complacent, Savvy Nature finishing off the trifecta third that day.
It was also their second second-place finish on the trot following a narrow loss to Eurozone in the Group 2 Stan Fox Stakes (1500m) at Rosehill in September, form Payne is tipping will stand up on Saturday with all the three-year-olds going up to the 2500m for the first time.
“We are under the radar a bit but Savvy Nature’s win last Saturday at Moonee Valley has franked his form,” Payne told the Herald Sun.
“The Sydney three-year-olds look superior and the 2500m won’t bother my colt, he will relish it.”
Criterion is yet to race in Melbourne but Payne isn’t concerned about that or the distance.
“He has had plenty of practice galloping the reverse way back home (Rosehill) and since he has been at Caulfield, he hasn’t had a problem working the Melbourne direction,” Payne said.
“He’s such a relaxed colt and I’m confident he will stay the trip but some of the others in the race might struggle to run it out.”
Payne also rates Criterion as a better horse than his 2010 Victoria Derby runner-up Praecido which is a big wrap for the gun galloper.
“This is the race I’ve set Criterion for this spring,” he said.
“I’ve had a second placing in the Victoria Derby before but this colt is a better horse.”
Their Victorian debut will also be aided by the presence of top jockey Williams in the saddle.
This preparation the young horse has been ridden by three separate jockeys, most recently Brenton Avdulla in the Spring Champion.
Williams will be the fourth, and Payne hopes it will be a willing combination after the top hoop actually chased him for the ride.
“We’ve got Craig Williams to ride him and he’s a world class jockey,” Payne said.
“We don’t have to improve a lot to be a winning chance and Craig might be the difference for us.
“We were actually waiting on Nash (Rawiller) to see what he was going to do when Craig phoned me to ask if he could ride Criterion in the Derby.
“As a trainer, it is always good to know that your jockey is keen to ride your horse and Craig has ridden him once before and won on him in the Todman Stakes.”
Criterion and Williams were successful in the Group 2 Todman Stakes (1200m) back in March too beating home Fast ‘N’ Rocking to win before the horse went on to run sixth in both the Group 1 Golden Slipper (1200m) and Group 1 Champagne Stakes (1600m) during their autumn campaign.
Nash Rawiller meanwhile will get a ride in the Derby aboard the John Sadler-trained Pinstripe Lane, currently a $26 outside chance after their third to Savvy Nature in the Vase.
Stay tuned to Races.com.au to view the official 2013 Victoria Derby field after the last round of acceptances close at 10:00am (AEST) on Wednesday.
In the meantime, check out what price your early Derby favourites are paying online at our preferred online betting agency Ladbrokes.com.au and gear up for their ‘Double The Odds’ promo on Saturday!