A pleasing gallop at Sha Tin has co-trainer David Hayes looking forward to the 2014 Hong Kong Cup run on Sunday from Criterion who will be an even stronger chance in the race with some rain on the track.
A recent stable acquisition for Hayes and Tom Dabernig, the Sebring four-year-old has to date had 22 starts for five wins and seven minor placings under his former trainer David Payne.
Payne prepared the $2.6 million earner for two Group 1s as a three-year-old during the autumn in Sydney with Criterion completing the Rosehill Guineas – ATC Derby double.
Now he is set for his maiden run for Hayes and Dabernig in the Group 1 Hong Kong International Cup (2000m) at Sha Tin Racecourse on Sunday, December 14.
He had his final gallop ahead of his international debut over 1200m at the track on Tuesday and ran nice time finishing in 1.25.2, including his final 400m in a smart 23.4 seconds.
It was the kind of work Hayes had been hoping to see from the galloper who suffered a bout of colic before his trip to Hong Kong as well as an allergic reaction to a required tick wash once he had arrived.
“His exhibition gallop at Moonee Valley races, before he left, was very good and this gallop this morning will be all he needs. That will be his final bit of work,” Hayes told the Hong Kong Jockey Club yesterday.
“I was pleased with his gallop this morning. He did it very easily and his recovery was great.”
Now Hayes is praying for some wet weather to further boost his confidence, Criterion having won both of his Group 1 trophies on rain-affected ground.
The Rosehill Guineas (2000m) was a tidy three and a half-length effort on a Slow (7) track while the Australian Derby (2400m) was a closer affair with a half-length to spare on the Heavy (9) course.
“If we get rain, I’ll be dancing in the streets,” Hayes said.
“He’s very good with some give. His two Group I wins in Sydney earlier in the year came on rain affected tracks and the ground was just too firm for him last start in the Mackinnon Stakes.”
The $1 million Group 1 Mackinnon Stakes (2000m), sponsored by Longines which is also the sponsor for the four Hong Kong International Races on Sunday, was Criterion’s last start at Flemington on November 1.
The Derby Day showdown was run on a Good (3) and Criterion, in his last run for the Sydney-based Payne, could only manage to finish three and three-quarter lengths away fifth behind Happy Trails.
Hayes then is confident, after seeing the horse’s work on Tuesday, that Criterion will be better suited to Sha Tin than Flemington and that improvement is to come.
“This track will suit him, be better for him,” Hayes said.
“It won’t be as firm as Flemington, no matter what but I’d still be happy to see some rain.”
2014 Hong Kong Cup betting is now open online at Ladbrokes.com.au with Criterion rated an $11 chance in markets led by Hong Kong’s reigning Horse Of The Year Designs On Rome so visit them today to get behind the Aussie raider!