Last start Australian Derby winner Criterion faces a top class field of competitors first-up in the 2014 Warwick Stakes at Royal Randwick this Saturday, a line-up his trainer David Payne describes as “unbelievable”.
Rosehill-based Payne admits to being blown away with the class of this year’s $175,000 Group 2 Warwick Stakes (1400m) nominations with 10 individual Group 1 winners, including his entry Criterion, entered for the weight-for-age feature.
“The Warwick Stakes field is an indication of how competitive it is in Sydney racing,” Payne told the Daily Telegraph after viewing the 19 nominees.
“The entries are unbelievable. It will be a very strong race.”
Rival trainer Chris Waller makes up half the nominations with nine entries including his Doncaster Mile first four of Sacred Falls, Royal Descent, Weary and Hawkspur that form part of his 31 entries across the Randwick race card for Saturday.
Along with Sacred Falls, Royal Descent, Hawkspur and Criterion the other previous Group 1 runners nominated for the Warwick Stakes are Boban, My Kingdom Of Fife, Dissident, Laser Hawk, Lucia Valentina and Tiger Tees.
Payne though knows it only takes one horse to win a race and he’s hoping on Saturday he can do that with Sebring stallion Criterion.
Criterion makes his four-year-old debut in the race on the back of a stellar autumn that included an Australian Guineas second to Cox Plate hero Shamus Award, and a winning Group 1 double in the Rosehill Guineas and Australian Derby.
He is one of six Warwick Stakes entries that won majors during the Sydney Autumn Racing Carnival along with Boban (Chipping Norton Stakes), Dissident (Randwick Guineas), Lucia Valentina (Vinery Stud Stakes), Sacred Falls (Doncaster Mile) and Tiger Tees (The Galaxy).
Nominated for all the spring majors this season, Criterion’s main target is the $3 million Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) at Moonee Valley on October 25 with Payne ruling out a Caulfield – Melbourne Cups’ bid.
“He won the Derby on class,” Payne said.
“They can do that as three-year-olds but I think he is too brilliant and the Cox Plate is his race.
“He is a 2000m horse and that will be as far as he runs this spring.”
He pays $19 in the early Ladbrokes.com.au Cox Plate betting markets, led by Silent Achiever ($11), and will look to kick off their campaign with their first weight-for-age assignment on Saturday.
How he handles the conditions in such a competitive field will help Payne get a gauge of Criterion’s claims for the Cox Plate then.
“We will get a good line on him in this race,” he said.
Payne is also unfazed by the predictions of a wet track in Sydney for Warwick Stakes Day, Criterion having won on both Slow and Heavy ground.
“He handles the wet so I’m not overly concerned if he does happen to strike a slow or heavy track first-up on Saturday,” he added.
“He’s had a good preparation, a couple of (exhibition) gallops and a barrier trial, so he’s ready to go.”
Criterion will be ridden by Hugh Bowman on Saturday, who rode him for his two autumn majors.
The 2014 Warwick Stakes final field and barriers are due out on Wednesday morning and will be published right here at Races.com.au so stay tuned.
Our preferred online bookie Ladbrokes.com.au are also gearing up for the weekend set to offer an exclusive Bonus Refund Bet Warwick Farm Offer making now the time for you to sign-up with them!