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David Hayes remains bullish about the prospects of Criterion giving Lindsay Park a seventh victory in the Cox Plate despite the presence of strong European opposition.

Hayes and training partner Tom Dabernig saddle Criterion in Saturday’s 2040m contest at Moonee Valley, a race Lindsay Park last won with Fields Of Omagh in 2006.

Criterion will be Lindsay Park’s first runner since Miss Finland and Niconero in 2007 and Hayes is confident the five-year-old will give a good account of himself in the most open Cox Plate in recent years.

The market has the Aidan O’Brien-trained Highland Reel the $5 favourite ahead of Criterion and Winx at $6, Kermadec at $6.50 with Arod at $9.50.

However the appearance of European gallopers Arod, Gailo Chop and Highland Reel has Hayes tempering his enthusiasm.

“In a normal Cox Plate year of 10 years ago I would be very confident,” Hayes said.

“I really respect these internationals as I’ve seen them up close this year and I know how good they are.

“I wish they weren’t here.”

Criterion raced with moderate success in England during the year after arriving from Hong Kong with a bout of travel sickness.

Hayes said a plan to win the Cox Plate and Melbourne Cup was hatched after his unplaced effort at Royal Ascot in June.

Criterion trained with a string of John Gosden’s horses, having a thorough grounding, and part of the preparation was the Juddmonte International at York in August.

Hayes said Criterion returned to Australia a fit racehorse.

The plan worked with his Caulfield Stakes success and Hayes is delighted with his progress since, bypassing the Breakfast With The Best at Moonee Valley on Tuesday to avoid the hype.

“He did a really nice piece of work on Sunday which suggested he has improved from the Caulfield Stakes and we’ve tapered into the race,” Hayes said.

Hayes doesn’t expect Criterion to be far away in the run and if jockey Michael Walker can have him close enough with 600m to run he thinks Criterion will be hard to hold out.

“He’s got the ability to run 33 seconds for the last 600 metres,” Hayes said.

“Michael’s got to give him a very smooth run for the first part of the race and give him plenty of room when he goes.”

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