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Australian Derby winning colt Criterion could race exclusively in Melbourne this spring with the rising four-year-old likely to tackle a 2014 Cox Plate campaign in Victoria.
A winner of five of their 16 starts to date, the David Payne-trained son of Sebring has already had nine Group 1 starts.
They were last seen beating home Tupac Amaru by half a length in a fine finish in the $2 million Group 1 Australian Derby (2400m) run in the mud at Randwick on April 12.
That made the smart stayer a dual elite level champion as Criterion was backing up from their three and a half length romp in the Group 1 Rosehill Guineas (2000m) just 14 days earlier.
Their other big run last time in was a second to last year’s Cox Plate winner Shamus Award in the Group 1 Australian Guineas (1600m).
While they’ve been competitive right up to 2500m when fourth to Polanski in the Group 1 Victoria Derby at Flemington last Melbourne Cup Carnival, this coming spring Payne is unlikely to step them back up to that distance.
“He won the Derby but I think his class got him over the line,” Payne told Racing Victoria.
“I think he was just a bit better than those other three-year-olds.”
Instead Criterion, who has been back in work for about four weeks now, is set to target the $3 million Group 1 W.S. Cox Plate (2040m) run at Moonee Valley on October 25.
To kick off their Cox Plate campaign Payne is looking at the likely first-up option of the $400,000 Group 1 Memsie Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield on August 30 followed by something at Moonee Valley to give them a feel for the notoriously tight circuit.
“He’s been back in work around a month and he’ll likely have all of his races in Melbourne,” Payne confirmed.
“With the Cox Plate his main objective, I’d like to give him one run at Moonee Valley to show him the course.”
In about a month Payne will officially trial the galloper who has come through their recent spell in top order.
“He’s twice the horse he was in the autumn,” he said.
“I know he went out in winning form but he’s come back a different horse. He’s put on weight and he’s a much stronger, burlier horse.
“He was always a very light horse but now he’s filled out and has matured nicely.”
Cox Plate betting markets are currently led by the Gai Waterhouse-trained Carlton House ($9).
Criterion meanwhile can be found further down the pre-nomination futures odds at $26.
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