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A last-start defeat in Sydney has done nothing to sway David Payne’s belief that Criterion is a genuine Cox Plate contender.

It’s an opinion that will be tested in Saturday’s Group One Caulfield Stakes when Criterion makes his first Melbourne appearance of the spring against a field likely to include Cox Plate favourite Fawkner.

The Australian Derby winner made a slashing return for third in the Warwick Stakes but disappointed second-up in the Chelmsford when he beat just one rival home.

He was solid last start in the Hill Stakes when runner-up to subsequent Metropolitan winner Junoob who dictated at a fanciful tempo in the September 20 race and made it all but impossible for the horses behind to run him down.

“That race was a joke, there was no speed at all,” Payne said.

“He’s come on since then and he’ll run in the Caulfield Stakes and then go to the Cox Plate.”

Hugh Bowman rode Criterion to his Derby victory and Payne confirmed the top jockey had been booked to reunite with the horse in the Caulfield Stakes.

Payne also has Melbourne plans for filly Lady Macan who warmed up late to hit the line for fourth to Hampton Court in Saturday’s Dulcify Stakes at Randwick.

She will be put on a path towards the Victoria Oaks.

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