Reigning Queen Elizabeth Stakes winner Criterion will bypass any lead-up races to his title defence in the season’s richest race and stick to a Sydney-only autumn campaign kicking off in the Canterbury Stakes 2016.
Last Sydney Autumn Racing Carnival the David Hayes & Tom Dabernig-trained Sebring stallion enjoyed his third elite level success with an impressive two and a half length win over three-time Melbourne Cup runner-up Red Cadeaux in the $4 million Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m).
Now a four-time Group 1 champ thanks to his subsequent Caulfield Stakes success in the spring, five-year-old Criterion heads towards a shot at back-to-back Queen Elizabeth Stakes wins this April during Royal Randwick’s The Championships.
If successful he will be the first back-to-back Queen Elizabeth Stakes winner since the Gai Waterhouse-trained Grand Armee (2004-05).
Criterion came via the Canterbury Stakes and George Ryder Stakes running third and second respectively behind Cosmic Endeavour and Japan’s Real Impact to win the Queen Elizabeth last season and runs in the same lead-ups this time in.
Despite holding an entry for the $1.5 million Group 1 Australian Cup (2000m) at Flemington on March 12, co-trainer Dabernig confirmed the $7.19 million earner would not be seen in Melbourne this prep.
“Unfortunately, he’ll be going straight up to Sydney,” Dabernig told Racing Ahead on RSN this week.
“But he seems in great order. He’s at the farm and doing well.”
Instead in the horse’s first run since finishing a well-beaten ninth in the Group 1 Hong Kong Cup (2000m) at Sha Tin in December, a race Criterion was third in the previous year, he will look to improve on his third from 2015 in the $500,000 Group 1 Canterbury Stakes (1300m) on Randwick Guineas Day, March 5.
From there he will back-up in the $1 million Group 1 George Ryder Stakes (1500m) a fortnight later on Golden Slipper Day at Rosehill Gardens.
Criterion is current $11 equal second favourite with Irish-trained Hong Kong Vase winner Highland Reel and Murray Baker’s Caulfield Cup winning Kiwi visitor Mongolian Khan in futures Queen Elizabeth Stakes betting at Ladbrokes.com.au for the April 9 classic.
The all-in Queen Elizabeth Stakes odds are firmly led by Chris Waller’s Cox Plate winning mare Winx ($3.80), Criterion having crossed second to her in Australasia’s weight-for-age championship in October before his Melbourne Cup third.
2016 Queen Elizabeth Stakes nominations close on Monday February 8 along with those for the $2 million Group 1 Sydney Cup (3200m), $1 million Group 1 Australian Oaks (2400m) and $1 million Group 1 Queen Of The Turf Stakes (1600m).
To check out the early Queen Elizabeth Stakes markets and get behind Criterion over his autumn campaign at the right price sign-up now with Ladbrokes.com.au where quoting the code BETBONUS will see your initial investment matched 100% up to $500 in bonuses!