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HUGH IS ADAMANT – SIR OWEN’S COLT CRITERION IS THE BEST STAYING 3YO

April 15, 2014

He’s bred to be a sprinter, but Criterion (NZ)  (Sebring) has lived up to trainer David Payne’s belief he is a superior stayer with victory in yesterday’s Australian Derby at Randwick.

The colt won the 2000 metre Rosehill Guineas a fortnight ago to become the Derby favourite but despite the domination of that 3½ length win still had some doubters over his ability to get 2400 metres.

Payne said he had no worries about the distance but was a little concerned about the heavy track.  “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 over short distances as a juvenile, winning last year’s Black Opal Stakes and finishing sixth in the Slipper.

Extended in the spring by Payne, he ran fourth in the Victoria Derby to the now-retired Polanski – who was ridden by Hugh Bowman, Criterion’s pilot in his two Group One wins.  From his inside barrier, Bowman settled Criterion – solidly backed on-course to firm from $3.20 to $2.90 – midfield on the rails and waited to improve until just before the home turn.

New Zealand Derby winner Puccini (NZ) (Encosta de Lago) led the field into the straight but then the swoopers  came, with Criterion getting the better of Tupac Amaru (Street Cry) by a long neck with Hooked (Casino Prince)  another threequarters of a length away third.  James McDonald’s mount Savvy Nature (NZ) (Savabeel) was fourth and Puccini held on well to finish fifth. Criterion is owned by Sir Owen Glenn, in the news in the past week over the controversial sacking of the coach of the New Zealand Warriors, the NRL team he co-owns with Eric Watson. Given some acrimonious public bickering between the businessmen and with Watson’s horse Albany Reunion winning the Group One Easter Handicap at Ellerslie an hour earlier, Sir Owen would have relished the prestigious win by the horse bred at the Blandford Lodge establishment in Matamata he co-owns with Graham and Helen-Gaye Bax.

Payne said Sir Owen 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,” the jockey 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.  “I must admit I thought Hooked was going to come at me at the 300 metres but this horse just went to another level over the mile and a half.”

Bowman said he reverted to hands and heels over the concluding stages because the track was so heavy and he didn’t want to unbalance the horse by pulling the whip.  He added that 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.”

– AAP TURF & TVN

story from NZTN