David Hayes is thrilled with the condition of Criterion following his impressive performance for second in the Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) over the weekend, and remains confident the horse will have no issues staying the two miles of the 2015 Melbourne Cup next Tuesday.
Criterion was sent off a leading fancy in the Cox Plate after storming home to win the Group 1 Caulfield Stakes (200m) first-up on October 10th, and produced an impressive turn of foot in the final straight to finish second behind an absolutely freakish run by the Chris Waller-trained Winx.
Having completed a light fact-finding gallop on the Flemington course proper on Tuesday morning, Hayes told the media he would not be more pleased with the talented son of Sebring
“He wasn’t out to do anything this morning other than have a look around the course proper at Flemington,” Hayes said.
“He’s obviously very fit. Michael Walker (jockey) and myself both thought and said that you wouldn’t know he ran the other day if you didn’t know so that’s always a good sign.
“I think because of it distance, it will suit him better at the stage he’s at. I know he broke a course record running second and would have won probably ten out of twelve Cox Plate.
“I think the tempo of two miles will be more comfortable for him and he’ll show an even better turn of foot at two miles.
“He’s had this wonderful English summer where the whole emphasis was training stamina into him. In the end you never really know, but my gut feeling is he’ll run the two mile pretty easily.”
Hayes has identified Japanese raider Fame Game as the major threat to Criterion’s chances of success in the 2015 Melbourne Cup, but is wary of a number of chances including the Lee and Anthony Freedman-trained Our Ivanhowe.
“I would say the Japanese horse and Lee Freedman’s horse if he gets a bit of rain will do very well. The Caulfield Cup winner (Mongolian Khan) was terrific but we have beaten him,” Hayes said.
“I think if we rode Criterion dead cold and let him run home in a Caulfield Cup he would have surged home pretty well too.”
A four-time Group 1 champion, Criterion has been a strong and consistent performer since first appearing on course for David Payne in late 2012; posting an impressive seven wins and twelve minors through 31 career starts.
Capping an impressive 2014 Autumn Carnival with consecutive wins in the Group 1 Rosehill Guineas (2000m) and Group 1 Australian Derby (2400m), Criterion returned to racing in career-best form this year; running third in the Group 1 Canterbury Stakes (1300m) and second in the Group 1 George Ryder Stakes (1500m) before taking out the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) on Day 2 of The Championships.
Performing well against some of the world’s standout middle distance horses abroad, Criterion is currently available at 2015 Melbourne Cup odds of $15 for success with Ladbrokes.com.au.