Fresh off the back of an impressive run for third in the major Group 1 Hong Kong Cup (2000m) at Sha Tin Racecourse over the weekend, trainer David Hayes has revealed talented runner Criterion will be set for the featured Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) on Day 2 of The Championships upon returning to competition in 2015.
Jumping from the gates well in the Hong Kong Cup, Criterion immediately travelled to the fore of the field; a position he is not used to claiming, but received a good run in transit; kicking well in the final straight to finish just off the pace of classy Hong Kong locals Designs On Rome and Military Attack.
Understandably thrilled with what was his first race saddling the talented four-year-old, Hayes told TVN Criterion will be lightly-raced over the 2015 Autumn Carnival, and will likely begin his season in the Group 1 George Ryder Stakes (1500m) in the lead-up to the 2015 Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
“He gave a great kick like the good horse he is. I thought at the top of the straight he may be a winning chance,” Hayes said of Criterion’s Hong Kong Cup performance.
“Maybe if he drew a barrier and Hughie (Bowman) got cover he may have won the race.
“It was a really classy, good effort. He had a major problem going into the race with the allergy, so with a bit of a break … I don’t know how many sleeps to the George Ryder, but I’m looking forward to it.
“We’ll race him sparingly and treat him like the international horse he proved himself to be.”
Securing five wins and a further eight minor places from just 23 competitive starts so far, Criterion stamped his claims as one to watch from his maiden racing preparation, but perhaps first came to the fore over the 2013 edition of the Spring Racing Carnival, when finishing a close second in the Group 1 Spring Champion Stakes (2000m) and fourth in the Group 1 Victoria Derby (2500m) most notably.
Returning to racing in career-best form over the 2014 Autumn, Criterion finished fourth in the Group 3 CS Hayes Stakes (1400m) and second in the Group 1 Australian Guineas (1600m), and while unable to figure when eighth in the Group 1 Randwick Guineas (1600m), responded in the best way possible in taking out both the Group 1 Rosehill Guineas (2000m) and Group 1 Australian Derby (2400m) in succession.
Running third in the Group 2 Warwick Stakes (1400m) first-up this time, the Sebring entire continued to build in form on his way to second place finishes in both the Group 2 Hill Stakes (2000m) and Group 1 Caulfield Stakes (2000m); closing his Australian campaign fifth in the Group 1 Mackinnon Stakes (2000m) on November 1st.
Leading online bookie Ladbrokes.com.au is currently offering the best 2015 Queen Elizabeth Stakes odds, for which Criterion can be taken at a particularly generous quote of $17 for success.