Ending an exceptional 2014 racing calendar a credible third in the major Group 1 Hong Kong Cup (2000m) at Sha Tin in mid-December, trainer David Hayes has revealed he has underlined the Group 1 Canterbury Stakes (1300m) at Royal Randwick as the first point of call for Criterion this autumn.
Jumping from the gates well in the Hong Kong Cup, jockey Hugh Bowman settled the Sebring entire at the fore of the pack; receiving a good trip throughout and kicking well in the final straight, but was unlucky to be pipped on the line by leading locals Designs On Rome and Military Attack.
Having reportedly taken particularly well to his time in quarantine after arriving back in Australia, Hayes told Racing Victoria he is eyeing the Canterbury Stakes and perhaps the Group 1 George Ryder Stakes (1500m) at Rosehill Gardens two weeks later as tune-up events for the $4 million Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) on Day 2 of The Championships.
“He thrived and he put on about 15 kilos in quarantine at Werribee,” Hayes said.
“He was restricted to light training and he’s doing another couple of weeks light training before we start stepping him up for the autumn.
“Early call, we’re looking at a race like the Canterbury Stakes (first-up) if he’s showing me enough dash; 1300 metres at Group 1 and maybe the George Ryder as lead ups to the Queen Elizabeth.
“I think we’ll just really target him for Sydney.”
Having taken over the training of Criterion from the care of David Payne only weeks prior to his Hong Kong assault, Hayes has been thrilled with the class and fortitude displayed by the four-year-old so-far and is brimming with confidence leading into the 2015 Autumn Racing Carnival.
“There’s no doubt the way he acts and what he did in Hong Kong shows that he could be the best weight-for-age horse I’ve had for a little while,” he added.
“He’s still got to put the score on the board at weight-for-age, but he nearly won a Caulfield Stakes at weight-for-age, so he’s pretty good.”
Unlucky not to break through for a maiden victory at the highest level of his maiden campaign through 2013, Criterion undoubtedly found career-best form through the 2014 autumn season, highlighted by back-to-back victories in the Group 1 Rosehill Guineas (2000m) and Group 1 Australian Derby (2400m).
Unlucky not to claim a race win over spring, the stallion out of Mica’s Pride placed an agonizingly-close second to Fawkner in the Group 1 Caulfield Stakes (2000m) most notably, progressing to seventh in the Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) and fifth in the Group 1 Mackinnon Stakes (2000m) prior to his journey abroad.
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