Last year’s seven-length champion Zaaki returns...
Co-trainer David Hayes has confirmed plans to head back to Hong Kong for next month’s International Race Day with star stayer Criterion who pulled up win after a brave third in the Melbourne Cup last week.
A five-year-old son of Sebring, Criterion backed-up from a second in the Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) in October to cross only one and a quarter lengths away third in the iconic $6.2 million Group 1 Emirates Melbourne Cup (3200m) behind upset $101 winner Prince Of Penzance.
Having his first look at the distance the flying stallion took his prize money earned out over $7 million when finishing off the Melbourne Cup trifecta with regular jockey Michael Walker in the saddle.
A four-time Group 1 winner, Criterion has had two previous campaigns overseas and connections are seriously considering a third with another run in the Group 1 Hong Kong Cup (2000m) at Sha Tin Racecourse on December 13 on the cards.
Winner of the Rosehill Guineas – ATC Derby double as a three-year-old in the autumn of last year, Criterion’s first international test was in the Hong Kong Cup nearly 12 months ago.
He was far from disgraced when Australian hoop Hugh Bowman rode him to a close third only a length off ace local champion Designs On Rome.
This autumn on the back of a first-up victory over triple Melbourne Cup runner-up Red Cadeaux to win the lucrative $4 million Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) in Sydney by over two lengths, the horse went to Hong Kong for a second time.
In late April he was third again, this time with Craig Williams aboard for the run behind Blazing Speed in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup (2000m) at the same track and distance as the HK Cup.
Criterion also travelled to England in our winter four a fifth to Free Eagle in Ascot’s Group 1 Prince Of Wales Stakes (2012m) and a sixth when carting 60kg around in the Group 1 Juddmonte International Stakes (2092m) at York.
After his stellar spring back home and having pulled up well post-Melbourne Cup run, Hayes confirmed plans to target the Hong Kong Cup and possibly extend his world tour to Japan.
The final call will be made after Criterion performs in an exhibition gallop at Moonee Valley next week.
“He unfortunately had a very easy run in the Cup,” Hayes told AAP this week.
“We’ll potter around with him and give him an exhibition gallop at the Valley.
“I think he’ll work well and we’ll be sending him, just as we did last year.”
All going well, the Japanese target for Criterion post-Hong Kong is the Arima Kinen (2500m) at Nakayama on December 27, a race worth around $A6 Million in total prize money.
“He doesn’t surprise me anymore as I know what he can do,” Hayes, co co-trains the horse with nephew Tom Dabernig, said.
“He has nice breaks between runs and the Melbourne Cup to Hong Kong is six weeks and he thrives on that.
“If he ran well in Hong Kong, (owner) Sir Owen Glenn is keen for him to go to Japan, and he did beat the Japanese horses quite easily in the Melbourne Cup.”
Williams will reunite with Criterion for the first time since his QEII Cup run in April should the horse head to the Hong Kong Cup 2015 with regular rider this campaign Walker booked to have surgery on his hip in December.
Hayes & Dabernig are also looking at a Hong Kong Cup run with 2014 ATC Oaks winning mare Rising Romance who was last seen crossing just a half-length second to Gailo Chop in the Group 1 Mackinnon Stakes (2000m) at Flemington on Derby Day.
The now five-year-old daughter of Ekraar is also nominated for this weekend’s Group 2 Zipping Classic (2400m) at Sandown as well as the Group 1 Railway Stakes (1600m) and Group 1 Kingston Town Classic (1800m) in Perth on November 21 and December 5 respectively.
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