Co-trainer David Hayes is putting his trust in Criterion and hoping the horse’s class pays off as he makes his international debut in the Hong Kong Cup 2014 at Sha Tin Racecourse this Sunday.
Hayes and his partner in training Tom Dabernig only took over the preparation of the Sebring four-year-old last month and Criterion is yet to officially race under his new trainers.
Previously prepared by David Payne in Sydney, the smart stallion is a dual Group 1 winner having taken out the Rosehill Guinea s – Australian Derby double as a three-year-old during the autumn.
While he hasn’t won a race since his half-length win over Tupac Amaru in the Group 1 Australian Derby (2400m) on April 12, Hayes is hoping he can break the drought when he runs in the HK$25 million Group 1 Hong Kong International Cup (2000m) on December 14.
Criterion’s lead-up into the Hong Kong Cup hasn’t exactly been smooth.
The youngster suffered a bout of colic a few days out from his scheduled flight and also had a bad reaction to shampoo once in Hong Kong.
Hayes however believes all the bad luck is now behind the $2.6 million earner and that Criterion was in top condition ahead of his first run outside of Australia.
“He was a bit stressed when he arrived here but I’m happy with him now. His coat’s healthy, he’s well hydrated and he looks good,” he told the Hong Kong Jockey Club on Monday.
During his most recent campaign down under, Criterion ran in three straight Group 1 spring showdowns in Melbourne.
He placed a close second behind Fawkner in the Group 1 Caulfield Stakes (2000m), finished only 1.5 lengths off the European winner Adelaide in the Group 1 WS Cox Plate (2040m) when a fighting seventh and then crossed a somewhat flat fifth behind Happy Trails last start at Flemington in the Group 1 Mackinnon Stakes (2000m) on Derby Day.
Hayes is now hoping for improvement in the HK Cup, and believes the horse capable of a big run against a star-studded field.
“Obviously he’s new to me but we know the horse and he’s a very good mover, pretty classy,” he said.
“I’m quietly confident he’ll acquit himself well. He’s a Derby winner, going right handed at home, and his recent form is probably better than it looks.
“He didn’t have much luck in the Cox Plate and was only a length and a half off them and the really firm track was against him in the Mackinnon at Flemington.”
Criterion was given a look at the all-weather track on Monday morning but unlike Hong Kong Sprint hopeful Buffering, Hayes wasn’t planning any serious work for his horse over the week.
“I won’t work him too hard this week,” Hayes said.
“I’ll trust him as you should do with a good horse. He had two solid runs in the space of seven days, in the Cox Plate and the Mackinnon Stakes so he came here fit.”
The latest Hong Kong Cup betting markets at Ladbrokes.com.au are led by local hopes Designs On Rome ($4) who was named Hong Kong Horse of the Year and recent Jockey Club Cup runner-up Military Attack ($4.60).
Criterion meanwhile is just outside the single figure hopes at $13 to score an upset on Sunday.
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