Co-trainer David Hayes will chase his maiden win in the ‘race that stops a nation’ after confirming the Melbourne Cup 2015 Tuesday week for his Cox Plate runner-up Criterion next race.
Four-time Group 1 winning Sebring stallion Criterion was one of 42 stayers whose connections paid the second acceptance fee to keep them in $6.2 million Group 1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) contention on Monday morning when the latest acceptances for the November 3 Flemington feature closed.
The internationally-performed five-year-old, looking to go back-to-back for the 5YOs after German raider Protectionist last Melbourne Cup Carnival, Criterion will be lining up in the world’s richest handicap for the first time.
Last year he ran seventh in the Cox Plate before a Mackinnon Stakes fifth over 2000m on Victoria Derby Day and then headed overseas for a Hong Kong Cup third.
This time in he returned from another campaign overseas to win the Group 1 Caulfield Stakes (2000m) first-up and then cross four and three quarter lengths away seventh to Chris Waller’s champion mare Winx in the Cox Plate.
Despite the big margin, Criterion also broke Might And Power’s track record when second past the post in last weekend’s weight-for-age classic, an effort that has Hayes convinced the horse will run out the two miles of the famous Flemington cup especially after he was badly checked on the home corner in the Cox Plate.
“He came through the run really well, I was a bit worried when he got knocked down but he pulled up very clean in the wind, which from a Melbourne Cup point of view is excellent,” Hayes told Racing Victoria.
“I loved the way that despite getting flattened that he picked up and ran second and it’s just a bit disappointing that he missed the start so badly and was last out of the gates.
“That’s something that he’s done at different times throughout his career but at two miles (3200m) that won’t matter.
“I think he’s fit and goes into the race having had a good hit-out ten days before the race.”
Hayes, who trains $6.7 million earner Criterion in partnership with his nephew Tom Dabernig, has to date saddled-up 21 Melbourne Cup runners but has finished up with just one third place finish.
That is something he hopes he can chance this season with Criterion, who is currently rated a $15 chance in futures Melbourne Cup odds at Ladbrokes.com.au where punters can enjoy Best Tote or SP + 20% on the Group 1 features of the carnival.
The Cox Plate has produced two of the past three Melbourne Cup winners, so the form line stacks up, with Green Moon (7th in 2012) and Fiorente (3rd in 2013) both coming out of the Moonee Valley event.
Criterion sits third on the latest Melbourne Cup order of entry behind Murray Baker’s Caulfield Cup champ Mongolian Khan and the Sir Michael Stoute-trained 58kg top weight Snow Sky.
He is allocated 57.5kg, which is an exact weight no Melbourne Cup winner has carried to victory in over 30 years and just one has saluted with more than 56.5kg (since 1983) with Makybe Diva (58kg in 2005).
Leading the latest all-in Melbourne Cup odds are Caulfield Cup sixth placed Japanese raider Fame Game ($4), the Ed Dunlop-trained second placegetter in the same 2400m showdown Trip To Paris ($7.50) out to hand his trainer with a fourth second in the Melbourne Cup and Mongolian Khan ($8).
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