Co-trainer David Hayes has named the George Ryder Stakes 2015 as one of the three major Group 1 targets for recent stable acquisition Criterion this Sydney Autumn Racing Carnival.
Previously prepared by David Payne, the now Victorian-based Criterion joined Hayes and his nephew Tom Dabernig at Lindsay Park late last year debuting for them overseas.
Winner of the Group 1 Rosehill Guineas – Australian Derby double as a three-year-old last autumn, the Sebring stallion made his international and new-stable debut in the Group 1 Hong Kong Cup (2000m) at Sha Tin on December 14.
Sydney-based hoop Hugh Bowman rode the four-year-old to a brave third behind champion local gallopers Designs On Rome (1st) and Military Attack (2nd) who passed him over the final 50m after Criterion hit the front with 300m to go and briefly looked the winner.
He went down by only a length in an eye-catching performance that he’ll be looking to emulate in Sydney during his first Australian campaign for Hayes & Dabernig.
After undergoing the required quarantine at Werribee, where his work was quite restricted, Criterion is now at Hayes’ Euroa base gearing up for his autumn return where he’s set to race only in Sydney.
“He thrived and he put on about 15 kilos in quarantine at Werribee,” Hayes told Racing Victoria.
“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.”
His major aim during The Championships is the $4 million Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) at Royal Randwick on April 11 that is set to attract the who’s who of autumn stars with its lucrative prize money.
Queen Elizabeth Stakes betting is already open at Ladbrokes.com.au with Japan’s To The World ($5), Cox Plate winning European Adelaide ($6.50) and the now Kris Lees-trained Melbourne Cup winner Protectionist ($7.50) the early favourites.
Criterion is also in the mix as a $17 chance, a price set to firm if he can win some of his earlier lead-up races.
Hayes confirmed his most likely first-up option was $500,000 Group 1 Canterbury Stakes (1300m) at Randwick on March 7.
From there he is likely to stick on weight-for-age path into the Queen Elizabeth Stakes via the $1 million Group 1 George Ryder Stakes (1500m) on Golden Slipper Day at Rosehill Gardens Racecourse on March 21.
“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,” Hayes said.
“I think we’ll just really target him for Sydney.
“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’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.”
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