Gallant Criterion 5th at Royal Ascot

Criterion will likely head back to Australia and be aimed towards the Cox Plate after finishing unplaced in the Group 1 Prince Of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot on Thursday morning (AEST).

Though he was beaten, the four-year-old was far from disgraced finishing in fifth position behind the winner Free Eagle.

Trainer David Hayes, who prepares the son of Sebring in partnership with his nephew Tom Dabernig, said Criterion raced a little bit fresh during the run and it probably cost him running a place.

“Chad (Schofield) said he was throwing his head a little bit but I thought it was a good even run and he was courageous,” Hayes said.

“I was very happy with Chad’s ride, he gave him every chance from the awkward barrier.

“We’ll probably give the horse a break over here in the summer and then send him home and hopefully head towards the Cox Plate.

“We might ask Racing Victoria if they could potentially open the quarantine centre for him in August.”

After settling in the box seat for Schofield, Criterion appeared to be struggling at the top of the straight but he rallied strongly over the final furlong to hold fifth position.

In a thrilling finish, the lightly-raced Irish four-year-old Free Eagle narrowly defeated The Grey Gatsby in a photo, with a gap to Western Hymn in third.

Free Eagle’s victory was a testament to his dual Melbourne Cup-winning trainer Dermot Weld’s ability, as the son of High Chaparral was only having his fifth career start.

Both Free Eagle and The Grey Gatsby hold invitations for this year’s Cox Plate, as does the OTI Racing-owned Gailo Chop, who finished narrowly behind Criterion in sixth.