Back at the Euroa base of his new trainers David Hayes & Tom Dabernig, brave Hong Kong Cup third placegetter Criterion is likely to resume racing down under in the Canterbury Stakes 2015 this March.
A dual Group 1 winner at three thanks to his impressive Rosehill Guineas – Australian Derby double last autumn, the now four-year-old son of Sebring hasn’t won a race since but has been super competitive both here and overseas.
Following a good spring in Sydney and Melbourne when prepared by his previous trainer David Payne, his best effort being a narrow second to Fawkner in the Group 1 Caulfield Stakes (2000m) in early October, the stallion has had just the one run for Hayes & Dabernig.
That was overseas when he made his international debut at Sha Tin on December 14 in the Group 1 Hong Kong Cup (2000m).
Australian hoop Hugh Bowman travelled over for the ride with Criterion tracking the leader in the lucrative staying showdown before driving forward from the 350m.
He briefly hit the lead on the inside with 300m left to travel and looked a winning chance before being run down over the final 50 by the winner Designs On Rome and runner-up Military Attack, holding on for a close third just a length off the winner.
He’s now stabled at Euroa after doing his required quarantine stint at Werribee, looking a picture of health, with plans to race him exclusively in Sydney this autumn.
“He thrived and he put on about 15 kilos in quarantine at Werribee,” his co-trainer Hayes told Racing Victoria this week.
“He was restricted to light training and he’s doing another couple of weeks light training before we start stepping him up for the autumn.”
Hayes is looking at a first-up run in the $500,000 Group 1 Canterbury Stakes (1300m) on Randwick Guineas Day on March 7.
From there he will progress towards Sydney’s The Championships where his major aim is the lucrative $4 million Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) back at Royal Randwick on April 11.
“Early call, we’re looking at a race like the Canterbury Stakes if he’s showing me enough dash – 1300 metres at Group 1 – and maybe the George Ryder as lead ups to the Queen Elizabeth,” Hayes said.
“I think we’ll just really target him for Sydney.”
Leading into the autumn’s richest race, the $1 million Group 1 George Ryder Stakes (1500m) runs at Rosehill Racecourse on March 21 – Golden Slipper Day – three weeks before the Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
“There’s no doubt the way he acts and what he did in Hong Kong shows that he could be the best weight-for-age horse I’ve had for a little while,” Hayes said.
“He’s still got to put the score on the board at weight-for-age, but he nearly won a Caulfield Stakes at weight-for-age, so he’s pretty good.”
Futures 2015 Queen Elizabeth Stakes odds at Ladbrokes.com.au are led by Japanese raider To The World ($5), European galloper Adelaide ($6.50) who stole the Cox Plate during the spring and the now Australian-trained German Melbourne Cup winner Protectionist ($7.50).
Criterion meanwhile can be found a little further down the futures Queen Elizabeth Stakes betting markets at a quote of $17.
To get behind Criterion first-up and in the early Queen Elizabeth markets make sure you have an account open online at Ladbrokes.com.au – home of the $250 bonus welcome bet offer for first time depositing customers that enter the codeword BETBONUS during sign-up.