David Hayes and Tom Dabernig can mount a case to having the best horse in the country in their stable following Criterion’s stunning win in Saturday’s Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick.
The four-year-old, who was formerly prepared by David Payne in Sydney, achieved a new career peak when he trounced a world-class field in the $4 million event over 2000 metres.
The son of Sebring’s job was made easier when favourite Contributer was scratched on the eve of the race, but it would have taken some effort from the Godolphin import anyway given the form Criterion displayed in his dominant win over Red Cadeaux and Royal Descent.
“It was nice to win a really big one,” Hayes said. “Getting horses in big races is why I built the place (at Euroa) and they are just starting to pop up more regularly now and running well.
“I won this race 20 years ago with Jeune. They are both high-class horses and we’re so excited to have a horse of this ability. It’s a real honour.”
Criterion completed a remarkable rise to prominence since joining Hayes and Dabernig after his fifth placing in the Mackinnon Stakes on Victoria Derby Day last November.
At his first start for Lindsay Park he finished third in the Hong Kong Cup (2000m) and two Queen Elizabeth lead-up runs this campaign produced a third in the Canterbury Stakes (1300m) and narrow second in the George Ryder Stakes (1500m).
Criterion ($5) was nosed out in the latter by Japanese galloper Real Impact, who finished second in last week’s Doncaster Mile, but he atoned with a 2-1/2-length win.
Red Cadeaux ($21), who encountered trouble gaining a clear run in the first half of the straight, logged yet another major second placing in Australia, finishing 1-1/4 lengths in advance of Royal Descent ($9).
“We were really confident today,” winning jockey Craig Williams said. “David told me to ride him like the best horse, I rode him positively and confidently and from there I just had to cuddle and kiss him. He did the rest.”
Criterion’s stablemate, Australian Cup winner Spillway ($17), was fourth, while Tosen Stardom ($9) was the first of the Japanese runners home, in fifth spot.
Japan’s other representative, $3.90 favourite To The World, failed to beat a runner home, while Cox Plate winner Adelaide ($5.50, seventh) was never a factor in his first run for Chris Waller.
Criterion is now likely to be given another shot at Hong Kong success, to head over for the QEII Stakes on 26 April if he pulls up well, while Hayes said he is also contemplating a trip to Royal Ascot for the entire.