Hugh Bowman has ridden Criterion home in seven of his 20 career starts, including winning the Group 1 Rosehill Guineas (2000m) and Australian Derby (2400m) earlier this year, but the horse will be without his regular rider this weekend in the Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m).
Bowman was suspended at Caulfield last Saturday for 20 meetings after being found guilty of improper riding in the Group 3 Caulfield Classic (2000m).
Stewards found Bowman, who rode Light Up Manhattan in the Classic, had “placed unnecessary pressure” on Glen Boss on Magicool and forced him to the fence in the back straight, which in turn resulted in Ben Melham being checked on Home Run Hero.
While he appealed the suspension on Tuesday afternoon and had the penalty reduced by four meetings, he remains ineligible to ride on Saturday with his suspension due to expire at midnight on Victoria Derby Day (November 1).
While Bowman won’t ride Criterion in the 2014 Cox Plate himself, he stills wants to see the four-year-old bring it home, suggesting James McDonald as his replacement to trainer David Payne on Tuesday morning.
“That was very nice of Hughie,” the trainer said to racing.com.
“He came to me and said, ‘David, why don’t you put him on in the gallop just to get a feel’.
“We’ve got a very good replacement (for Saturday).”
The $3 million weight-for-age Cox Plate will be McDonald’s first ride on Criterion, who got his first look at the Moonee Valley track during Tuesday morning’s Breakfast with the Best event. He worked over 1200 metres, which included a 25.34-second final 400m sprint.
“He went out on his own, he didn’t have company and I didn’t want him to do too much and he took it well. James was very happy,” Payne said.
The Cox Plate final field & barrier draw announcement followed the workout, in which Criterion drew an ideal start from gate six. This is the most successful Cox Plate barrier, bringing five winners home since 1983. The last winner from barrier six was Maldivian in 2008.
Criterion’s price firmed to $8.50 at Ladbrokes.com.au following the draw, while Fawkner continued to lead the Cox Plate odds at $4.
The four-year-old has just missed out on a win during his last two spring starts, but Payne believes he can bring it home this Saturday.
“It’s all worked out to plan and let’s hope we can finalise it on Saturday,” Payne said.
“He’s been knocking on the door. Let’s hope it opens on Saturday.”
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