Criterion is the greatest stakes winner currently racing in Australia – and he deserves to be.
Criterion is a horse with the brilliance to win over 2000m at Group 1 level, the determination and courage to be placed at the 3200m of the Melbourne Cup and the durability to travel the world.
As his trainer David Hayes says: “He's just a superstar”.
“He’s an outstanding sprinter that can stay, there aren’t many horses that can do that.
"When we started working with the horse we knew he was special.
"I’m very confident we can win back to back Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
"To train a horse like Criterion makes it very easy to get up on those early mornings.
"What makes him special is his durability, his toughness and his class.
"What an incredible, generous gesture by Sir Owen Glenn to give a once in a lifetime opportunity to get up close and personal with all the connections, the trainer, the jockey, to be a part owner of this horse on his final race in one of the most prestigious races in the world, to get $200,000 if he wins is just an amazing competition, I think I’m going to enter!”
“He dominates the stable, the parade ring. He often wins the best turned out and he is a dominant animal when you see him. Very athletic”
“He knows he’s special”
That effort took his racetrack earnings past $7 million, and there’s more to come.
Criterion is owned, and was bred, by New Zealand businessman and philanthropist Sir Owen Glenn and was initially trained by David Payne in Sydney who guided the horse to victories in the Group 1 Rosehill Guineas and Australian Derby of 2014.
Payne won five races with Criterion before he was transferred to David Hayes following his fifth placing the 2014 Group 1 LKS Mackinnon Stakes.
“Sir Owen wanted him to race internationally, so he asked me to take over his training him and I’m very glad he did,” Hayes said.
Criterion had hardly moved into the Hayes stables at Euroa in central Victoria than the international expeditions began.
A month after the Mackinnon he ran in the Group 1 Hong Kong Cup finishing third to Designs On Rome before returning home to prepare for the 2015 Sydney Autumn Carnival.
Hayes and Sir Owen then set their sights on the $4 million Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes and their horse showed he was going to be in the thick of it with a couple of Group 1 placings leading up.
“I was still getting to know him,” Hayes said. “But I’d learned quickly that he was a very classy horse.”
Criterion duly blitzed a top class field that included the Group 1 winners Red Cadeaux, Royal Descent, Lucia Valentina, Happy Trails and the Cox Plate winner Adelaide.
And then he was off again.
Two weeks after winning the Queen Elizabeth at Randwick, Criterion ran third in the Hong Kong version of the same race, The QE II Cup, at Shatin.
Criterion had no time to get familiar with his Hong Kong surroundings before embarking on another flight, this time to England where Sir Owen had chosen the Group 1 Prince Of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot in June as his next target.
He finished a fighting fifth there and was then sixth in the Group 1 Juddmonte International at York in August.
The results in England may have been a slight disappointment, but to Hayes they were secondary to his main ambition.
“His whole English summer preparation was about having this horse peak for the Melbourne Cup,’’ he says.
Even so, what happened next caught the trainer a little by surprise.
After enduring a return trip to Britain with the working stopover in Hong Kong, Criterion had to spend two weeks in quarantine on his return to Australia.
But he bounced out of the blocks with victory in the Group 1 Caulfield Stakes at his first Australian start since winning the Queen Elizabeth six months earlier.
Then came his second placing behind the mighty Winx in the Cox Plate, followed by his Melbourne Cup placing - and yet another trip to Hong Kong.
Criterion has had a good rest leading up to the Sydney Autumn Carnival and The Championships where his target – and his farewell to racing - is the G1 Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
Criterion is a strapping, golden chestnut stallion and is the son of Champion two-year-old and Golden Slipper winner Sebring. His mother (dam in breeding parlance), Mica's Pride is what is known in thoroughbred breeding as a “blue hen” mare – a consistent and superior producer of high-class racehorses. Criterion was conceived at Widden Stud in the Hunter Valley before Mica's Pride returned to her owner Sir Owen Glenn's native New Zealand to foal down. Criterion spent his early days in New Zealand and then returned to Australia to begin his racing career.
“Criterion has meant so much to our family and is the horse of a lifetime,” said Sir Owen Glenn.
Sebring was the champion two-year-old of his year winning five of his six starts. Among those victories were the world’s richest juvenile race and the Group 1 AJC Sires Produce Stakes. In his only defeat he was second in the AJC Champagne Stakes, the third leg of the Sydney two-year-old Triple Crown.
At stud he has produced the Group 1 winner Dissident who won four Group One's and was the 2014-15 Horse of the Year, along with Group winners Believe Yourself, Bring Me The Maid and Scratchy Bottom.
Mica’s Pride was a winner of three races in Sydney. She has had six foals to race, all of them winners. Three have won stakes races and Criterion is the best of them.
David Hayes is a member of an Australian training dynasty.
His father Colin Hayes was a legend of the turf in this country, his brother Peter was an outstanding trainer and he has carried on the tradition with distinction.
David took over as the master of the family’s Lindsay Park training operation on the retirement of his father in 1991 and in his first season won the Group 1 Cox Plate with Better Loosen Up.
In the same season he set a world record of six Group winners in a day at Flemington and won the the world’s richest race at the time, the Japan Cup, also with Better Loosen Up.
By the end of his third season at the helm, Hayes year won every training premiership in Melbourne and Adelaide and racked up 31 Group 1 wins.
In 1996, Hayes relocated to Hong Kong where he had immediate success, winning the trainers’ championship in his first season.
That feat him the only Australian ever to win a trainers’ title in three different jurisdictions.
Hayes left Hong Kong with two championships, finishing among the top four trainers in each of his nine seasons there and with 458 winners to his name.
He trains in partnership with his nephew Tom Dabernig. Tom has been part of the Lindsay Park team since 1993 and is the son of David’s sister Jan. He helped oversee the initial stages of Lindsay Park’s move from Angaston to Euroa where he did pre-training and breaking in and was elevated to assistant trainer in 2009 and then two years ago David announced a training partnership with Tom.