Unlucky to be blocked for a run and hampered when seventh in the featured Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) last weekend, trainer David Payne is confident of a return to the winner’s circle in Saturday’s Group 1 Mackinnon Stakes (2000m) for Criterion.
Jumping from the gates well in the Cox Plate, Criterion was settled slightly off the pace of early leaders Almalad, The Cleaner and Side Glance, receiving a largely clear run until reaching the final straight when completely blocked for a run by last-place getter Guest Of Honour.
Allocated the ideal inside barrier and confirmed to be partnered by jockey Corey Brown, Payne said he had initial underlined a return to the paddock for the Sebring entire following the Cox Plate, but believes the four-year-old is in the right form and the conditions of the Mackinnon Stakes are ideal for a third victory at the highest level of Australian racing this weekend.
“He missed the break, got cut off at the winning post and then that horse was falling back on him, the horse that ran last, so he was always on the wrong foot,” Payne told RSN of the Cox Plate performance.
“He will have an easy week. He is as fit as a fiddle.
“The plan was not to run him but when everything went wrong there we thought, ‘What the heck, we may as well have another crack’.
“It is a nice big track. He will love that big track as well. He will at least get balanced up.”
Securing five wins and a further seven minor places from his 21 competitive appearances on course this year, Criterion finished a close second to Shamus Award in the Group 1 Australian Guineas (1600m) on March 1st, and while appearing to be out of sorts when eighth in the Group 1 Randwick Guineas (1600m) on March 15th, responded in the best way possible when winning both the Group 1 Rosehill Guineas (2000m) and Group 1 Australian Derby (2400m) back-to-back.
Finishing third in the Group 2 Warwick Stakes (1400m) first-up this time before a disappointing run for seventh in the Group 2 Chelmsford Stakes (1600m), the stallion out of Mica’s Pride finished second to subsequent Group 1 winner Junoob in the Group 2 Hill Stakes (2000m) on September 20th before finishing a short head behind Fawkner in the Group 1 Caulfield Stakes (2000m) at fortnight prior to the Cox Plate.
Ladbrokes.com.au is currently offering the best Mackinnon Stakes odds, for which Criterion can be taken at a quote of $5.50 for success.