Jockey Michael Walker was thrilled with the feel offered up by Criterion in a Sandown gallop between races on Wednesday and is confident the classy stayer will be more than capable of first-up success in the Group 1 Canterbury Stakes (1300m) at Randwick on March 7th.
A standout performer over the 2014 edition of the Autumn Carnival, Criterion returned to the paddock after securing impressive back-to-back victories in the Group 1 Rosehill Guineas (2000m) and Group 1 Australian Derby (2400m).
Having never partnered the Sebring entire in competition or track work, Walker was glowing in his praises for the talented four-year-old and is confident trainers David Hayes and Tom Dabernig are in for a successful season with him.
“I didn’t move on him, I just clicked him up with my mouth and he picked up himself. In the end I had to slow him down because he was going to go right away from the other horse,” Walker told TVN.
“His action is unbelievable. He would be as nice an actioned horse as I’ve ridden. It was just beautiful, really fluent.
“He gave me a beautiful feel. I rode him last preparation, but he’s a totally different horse now. He is so much strong and more clued on.
“He’s a lovely animal; he’s going to have an amazing preparation.”
Securing five wins and a further eight minor place finishes over his 23 start career so far, Criterion began his racing tenure under the guidance of David Payne before transferring to the care of Hayes and Dabernig following spring.
Running third in the Group 2 Warwick Stakes (1400m) upon resuming for his most recent preparation, Criterion was disappointing when beating just one runner home in the Group 2 Chelmsford Stakes (1600m) on September 6th, but responded well in placing second in both the Group 2 Hill Stakes (2000m) and Group 1 Caulfield Stakes (2000m).
Running seventh in the Cox Plate (2040m) and ending his campaign fifth in the Group 1 Mackinnon Stakes (2000m), Criterion travelled to Hong Kong for the major Group 1 Hong Kong Cup (2000m), displaying a keen turn of foot late to finish an impressive third.
Leading online bookie Ladbrokes.com.au is currently offering the best odds on all major races through autumn, including the major Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m), for which Criterion is available at a generous quote of $17 for success.