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Four-year-old Criterion, who was last seen running third in the Group 1 Hong Kong Cup (2000m) during his trip abroad in December, enjoyed an exhibition gallop at Sandown on Wednesday afternoon in preparation for his autumn campaign, which will kick-off on March 7.
Michael Walker partnered Criterion in the gallop over 1100m, working alongside stable mate Orator, and the hoop had nothing but the highest form of praise for the horse following the ride.
The jockey gave Orator about a six to eight length start before Criterion comfortably picked him up to easily win the gallop. Walker even had to slow the horse down in the end because he was going to get too far away from Orator.
“I didn’t move on him, I just clicked him up with my mouth and he picked up himself. In the end I had to slow him down because he was going to go right away from the other horse,” Walker told TVN.
“His action is unbelievable. He would be as nice an actioned horse as I’ve ridden. It was just beautiful, really fluent.
“He gave me a beautiful feel. I rode him last preparation, but he’s a totally different horse now. He is so much strong and more clued on.
“He’s a lovely animal, he’s going to have an amazing preparation.”
The David Hayes and Tom Dabernig-trained horse will begin his autumn campaign in the Group 1 Canterbury Stakes (1300m) at Randwick on March 7 before heading to the Group 1 George Ryder Stakes (1500m) on March 21 at Rosehill and returning to Randwick for the $4 million Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) during The Championships.
Criterion capped off last autumn with back-to-back Group One wins in the Rosehill Guineas (2000m) and Australian Derby (2400m) however he was luckless during the spring, failing to win any of his six runs. The horse did finish runner-up in both the Group 2 Hill Stakes (2000m) and Group 1 Caulfield Stakes (2000m).
His trainers are hoping a return to Sydney will also see Criterion return to the winner’s circle.
The horse will have one final trial next week at his stables at Euroa before the 2015 Canterbury Stakes in a fortnight.
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