He’s bred to be a sprinter, but Criterion has lived up to trainer David Payne’s belief he is a superior stayer with victory in the prestigious Australian Derby at Randwick.
The former South African described Criterion’s win as up with the best of his distinguished career.
The colt won the Rosehill Guineas (2000m) and was the Derby favourite but had some doubters over the distance.
“The biggest race in South Africa is the Durban July, which I won as a jockey and as a trainer,” Payne said.
“This is up there with that. It’s the same feeling.”
Payne said he had no worries about the distance, but was a little concerned about the heavy track despite Criterion’s last start Group One win.
“That was at Rosehill and the Randwick heavy is different from that,” he said.
“But the horse has never been better and I knew he was fit enough.”
Criterion is by 2008 Golden Slipper winner Sebring out of sprinting mare Mica’s Pride.
He showed promise as a young horse over short distances, winning the 2013 Black Opal Stakes and finishing sixth in the Slipper.
Payne extended him in the spring and he ran fourth in the Victoria Derby to the now-retired Polanski, ridden by Bowman who has been Criterion’s pilot in his two Group One wins.
Bowman settled Criterion ($2.90) midfield with cover and let him find his rhythm.
New Zealand Derby winner Puccini led the field into the straight, but the swoopers came with Criterion getting the better of Tupac Amaru ($16) by a long neck with Hooked ($31) another three-quarters of a length third.
Puccini held on well to finish fifth.
Criterion is owned by Sir Owen Glenn, who has been in the news in the past week over the controversial sacking of Matt Elliott as the coach of the New Zealand Warriors, the NRL team he co-owns with Eric Watson.
Payne said Glenn was in France but he was sure he would be watching.
Bowman has now won four Derbys, three in Victoria and one in his home town.
“It’s my first Derby in Sydney, so it’s wonderful,” Bowman said.
“I knew I had the horse to do it. I’m so proud of him.
“I got him into a nice rhythm and he produced at the right time.”
Bowman said riding in staying races gave him special satisfaction.
“It is the true test of the thoroughbred,” he said.
“To win a Derby on a colt with sprinting blood on both sides of his pedigree shows he is a class horse.
“He is the best three-year-old around at 2000 metres and beyond.”