While Sydney’s chief trainer Chris Waller is set to dominate Saturday’s Warwick Stakes 2014 numbers-wise rival trainer David Payne isn’t shying away from the first-up challenge with Criterion.
The Australian Derby winning Sebring stallion, an early Ladbrokes.com.au favourite in two of the ‘Big Three’ races this carnival, returns to racing in the $175,000 Group 2 Warwick Stakes (1400m) at Royal Randwick.
Criterion makes his four-year-old debut in the race and will face an onslaught of Waller-trained stars, Payne happy the event is being run on Sydney’s premier track this year.
“It is great that this race is at Randwick,” he told The Sydney Morning Herald.
“Criterion wouldn’t be there if it was at Warwick Farm because he needs a big track.”
A winner of five of his 16 starts to date Criterion was last seen beating home Tupac Amaru to win the Group 1 Australian Derby (2400m) in the mud at Randwick back on April 12.
That followed his first elite level title, an impressive three and a half length effort in the Group 1 Rosehill Guineas (2000m).
With nine Group 1 runs already on his record, Criterion is getting set for another big season having been nominated for all the majors this Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival.
He starts on Saturday in the Warwick Stakes and although Payne knows his galloper is far from peak fitness, he is confident the horse will run well first-up.
“Criterion will be there, although he is not 100 per cent [wound up] because this is his starting point. However, he will run a race as he always does fresh,” Payne said.
Improvement then will come off his opening run with options for his major aims including the $3 million Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m) on October 18 and the $3 million Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) at Moonee Valley the following weekend.
Payne confirmed the latter was the main aim with the trainer dreaming the 2014 Cox Plate dream, the Warwick Stakes the perfect starting point for that.
“I’m happy where he is and he is a lot stronger as a four-year-old,” he said.
“However, his main goal is the Cox Plate, and we are working towards that, but this will give some indication of how he is going.”
Criterion is well-liked in the futures Caulfield Cup odds at Ladbrokes.com.au paying $21 to win while for the Cox Plate he is at an even shorter quote of $19.
Waller’s Warwick Stakes nominees meanwhile include his Doncaster Mile trifecta of Sacred Falls (Tommy Berry), Royal Descent (Kerrin McEvoy) and Weary (Brenton Avdulla).
Waller also has Glyn Schofield on standby for the ride on his Bernardini five-year-old Boban, the gelding having returned with a first-up fourth in the Group 2 Missile Stakes (1200m) on August 9.
Boban though is far from a confirmed starter with Waller on weather watch ahead of the acceptances.
Other possible Waller-trained runners include Hawkspur, Moriarty and Our Voodoo Prince.
A half-brother to English Derby winner Australia, Our Voodoo Prince will also be nominated for the $125,000 Group 3 Show County Quality (1200m) along with Bull Point (Schofield) and Junoob (Blake Shinn).
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