A standout performer over the Autumn Carnival, trainer David Payne has confirmed Group 1 winner Criterion will have no excuses when lining up for this afternoon’s Group 2 Hill Stakes (2000m) at Royal Randwick.
Appearing to have returned to racing in typically smart form this season when running on for third in the Group 2 Warwick Stakes (1400m) first-up, Criterion was unable to match the late pace of eventual winner Hawkspur in the Group 2 Chelmsford Stakes (1600m) last time out, beating only a single runner home.
Having also confirmed classy runner Honorius for the Hill Stakes, Payne said he is confident a return to his pet distance this weekend will be key in success, leading into his major target of the Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) in just over one month’s time.
“I think you have to forget about his last run. They were going a bit slow so Hugh Bowman made a move at the 800m, the saw him coming and pushed him out a bit wider. On that very heavy track, it was too much for the horse,” Payne told The Daily Telegraph.
“But if you look at his form, he always seems to struggle at 1600m for some reason. Even the day he ran second in the Australian Guineas he only really got going in the last 50m.
“He has to step up now because it is only one more run before the Cox Plate.
“The better track will help him and my other runner, Honorius. But Criterion is the pick of my two, he is ready to go. There is still a bit of improvement in the horse but I’m really happy with his work and how he looks.”
Securing a commendable total of five wins and five minors from just 18 competitive starts so far, Criterion was unlucky not to break through for a race win over a competitive 2013 Spring Racing Carnival; finishing second in both the Group 2 Stan Fox Stakes (1500m) and Group 1 Spring Champion Stakes (2000m) most notably.
Returning to racing in career-best form this year, the Sebring entire finished fourth in the Group 3 CS Hayes Stakes (1400m) first-up and second to Shamus Award in the Group 1 Australian Guineas (1600m), and while appearing to be out of sorts when eighth in the Group 1 Randwick Guineas (1600m), responded in the best way possible in claiming both the Group 1 Rosehill Guineas (2000m) and Group 1 Australian Derby (2400m) back-to-back.
Ladbrokes.com.au is currently offering the best odds on this afternoon’s Hill Stakes, for which Criterion is available at a generous quote of $3.60 for success; Honorius $31.
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