David Hayes says Criterion has produced an outstanding Melbourne Cup trial with his second placing in the Cox Plate.
Criterion finished a 4-3/4 length second behind Winx in Saturday’s race and had his odds cut for the Melbourne Cup from $21 to $13.
It was Criterion’s second run in Australia after racing in Hong Kong and Europe following his victory in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick in the autumn.
A plan was hatched in England to target the Cox Plate and Melbourne Cup with Criterion and the five-year-old showed he had returned from the United Kingdom in good order with his Caulfield Stakes success and Saturday’s performance has done nothing to change Hayes’ mind.
“I reckon it was a really good Melbourne Cup trial,” Hayes said.
“He was knocked down, he should have been right there and he’s run a really good second.
“The tempo of the two miles will be better and if he can be outside horses with cover, which we thought we would have been today, but instead we were inside getting knocked down.
“I thought it was a very gutsy effort for the pressure he was under at the 800 metres and to keep coming on.”
Hayes and jockey Michael Walker both claimed the winning margin should have been closer as Criterion was stopped in his tracks by the winner near the 600m.
Walker said he was working up on the inside of Winx and going just as well when he was forced to ease.
“I’ve hit the rail and I’ve lost probably two lengths,” Walker said.
“It knocks the momentum out of you, especially around the Valley.
“There’s no time to recover.”