It’s been an eventful year for jockey Michael Walker.
Suspensions have come at the wrong time while an injury put an end to his aspirations of winning last season’s Victorian jockeys’ premiership.
But Walker’s hard work and dedication to the Lindsay Park team of David Hayes and Tom Dabernig has been rewarded with the jockey gaining the ride on Criterion in the Caulfield Stakes on Saturday.
He has also been booked to ride the five-year-old in the Cox Plate at Moonee Valley on October 24 and the Melbourne Cup 10 days later.
Walker headed to the Werribee quarantine centre on Wednesday where he put Criterion through his final piece of work before Saturday.
It was Walker’s first time on Criterion’s back since the autumn.
Walker did the work preparing Criterion for a Sydney campaign and had a booking for the ride.
However a suspension put Walker on the sidelines with the ride going to Craig Williams who partnered the son of Sebring to victory in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick before departing on a three-race international campaign.
Walker said Criterion had returned to Australian shores a tougher horse in the mind.
“To me from when I first sat on him to now, if anything, he’s mentally a different horse,” Walker said.
“Physically he’s always been a beautiful animal and I’m just looking forward to riding him in a race.
“If everything comes off he could be one of the best stayers that I’ve ever ridden.”
Walker galloped Criterion over 1600m, coming home the last 400m in 24.8secs, quicker than expected.
“The good thing about him he was really relaxed and wouldn’t have blown a match out afterwards,” Walker said.
“He did the gallop stress-free and walked back nicely.
“Fingers crossed, toes crossed, everything crossed, I’m hoping he comes through every race with flying colours and he ends up running in all three races.”
Criterion has drawn barrier seven in the field of eight on Saturday and is an $11 chance with Kermadec the $2.90 favourite.