The David Hayes & Tom Dabernig-trained Australian galloper Criterion was unable to win at Hong Kong over the weekend in his second career run at Sha Tin Racecourse but was far from disgraced running a close third in the QEII Cup.
Fellow Aussie Craig Williams travelled over for the ride on this autumn’s Queen Elizabeth Stakes winner, Criterion having his second run at Sha Tin following a third in the Group 1 Hong Kong Cup (2000m) behind Designs On Rome back in December last year.
Flying through his Sydney autumn return back in Oz before heading back to Hong Kong for Sunday’s Group 1 The Audemars Piguet QEII Cup (2000m), the Sebring four-year-old was able to turn the tables on the Hong Kong Cup winner Designs On Rome (4th) who finished one further back than the Aussie raider in fourth.
The local Tony Cruz-trained son of Dylan Thomas Blazing Speed, ridden patiently by Neil Callan, drew away in the closing stages of the race to beat home Japan’s Staphanos over the final 200m by two lengths with Criterion crossing a devastatingly close third just a nose further back to finish off the trifecta.
It was a blanket finish after the first two over the line with under two lengths separating the runner-up from ninth past the post in the prestigious clash that was run in a sharp 2:02.89 seconds.
Winning hoop Callan was pleased with the winner Blazing Speed’s ability to settle in the race, which helped him get into the nice rhythm before pulling out a late burst to win running away.
“From the gates he jumped great and I couldn’t believe it,” Callan told the Hong Kong Jockey Club.
“I landed in my position so early and the rest was just getting him relaxed and in a rhythm and waiting for the straight.
“I counted to ten and waited for the straight and then once I let him down I thought he’ll take a bit of getting now.”
Plans are now to head to England for a Royal Ascot run with Criterion, who Williams was making no excuses for on Sunday.
“He’s done a good job to fight on as he did in this class field,” Williams said.
“He didn’t get things his own way. He was a bit fresh and keen early and the challengers came early at the top of the straight.
“It was his second run in two weeks and he had the travel so all in all he was very good.”
Hayes’s oldest son Ben Hayes, 24, will look over the preparation of Criterion in England at Newmarket’s Clarehaven Stables, owned by UK trainer John Gosden.
“We will have a staff member travel with the horse from Hong Kong and they will ride him in his gallops,” co-trainer Dabernig told The Australian.
“Ben will oversee things for us but David will travel up there to check on the horse.”
Criterion’s first Royal Ascot assignment is the $1 million Group 1 Prince Of Wales’s Stakes (2000m) on June 17, a race won in 2012 by dual Cox Plate champion So You Think.
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