Four-year-old Criterion has returned to Australia in excellent order after running third in the Group 1 Hong Kong Cup (2000m) on December 14.
The horse will remain in quarantine at the Werribee International Horse Centre for the next two weeks before heading to the stable of new co-trainers David Hayes and Tom Dabernig at Lindsay Park at Euroa.
Criterion’s Hong Kong Cup campaign was in jeopardy following a colic scare that turned out to be an allergic reaction to a tick shampoo but it all turned out well for the horse who finished just one length behind winner Designs On Rome.
After tracking the leader, Criterion responded well when driven by hoop Hugh Bowman 350 metres out. He hit the lead inside the 300 metres and looked a strong chance at winning before finding himself caught by the first two nearing the 50 metres, managing to hold on for third place.
“He’s a real beauty,” Dabernig told Sky Racing.
“He holds his condition. A lot of horses travelling don’t but he does well in that situation.
“He’ll have a couple of weeks at [Werribee] and then head back to the farm and we’ll kick him along to get him ready for the autumn.”
Criterion won both the Group 1 Rosehill Guineas (2000m) and Group 1 Australian Derby (2400m) under the preparation of David Payne last autumn but failed to secure a win during the spring in Melbourne.
He will be targeted towards The Championships in Sydney this time around with the Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) at Royal Randwick Racecourse on April 11 his main target.
With the likes of Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) winner Adelaide and Japanese gallopers To The World and Tosen Stardom also heading towards the 2015 Queen Elizabeth Stakes, Criterion will be tested. However, Dabernig is confident he’ll return to full fitness in no time.
“He can do light exercise at Werribee before he goes up to the farm,” the trainer said.
“He’s got great residual fitness so we’re not overly concerned.”
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