Trainer David Hayes has begun an exhaustive, three-day mission to come up with a plan to counter a disastrous barrier draw for Melbourne Cup placegetter Criterion in Sunday’s Group One Hong Kong Cup.
Criterion drew barrier 13, one from the outside, at the trickiest start at the Sha Tin track, severely damaging his prospects in the $A4.7 million race in which he is bidding to become the first Australian-trained Group One winner in Hong Kong.
A disappointed Hayes immediately set about putting together a plan aimed at salvaging something from Criterion’s third Hong Kong campaign.
“We’ll spend the next few days working on some tactics and see what we can come up with,” Hayes said.
“But it’s a fairly severe blow.”
Criterion, the highest prize money earner in training in Australia, finished third last year in Hong Kong’s biggest race and was third again in the Group One QEII Cup at Sha Tin last April.
Since arriving for his latest attempt his work had caused the confidence of his team to build to a point where Hayes believed he was in the best form of his career.
But a wide draw and a hot international field look to be obstacles that will take a small miracle to overcome.
Australia’s other runners at the meeting Lucia Valentina in the Cup and Preferment in the Group One Hong Kong Vase fared slightly better at the draw.
Lucia Valentina drew barrier five with Preferment to jump from gate 10.
The Australian-owned, French-trained Gailo Chop has barrier seven in the Cup.
Criterion became something of a revelation during the Australian spring, winning the Group One Caulfield Stakes, finishing second in the Cox Plate and third in the Melbourne Cup.
He had won Sydney’s richest race, the Queen Elizabeth Stakes in the autumn and in between had campaigned in Hong Kong and England.
“It’s a shame because he is going as well as he’s ever gone,” Hayes said.
“But we haven’t given up, we’ll all work on it and come up with something.”
A vital part of Hayes planning will be to examine video of the four Japanese runners Staphanos, Satono Aladdin, A Shin Hikari and Nuovo Record.
He will also bring jockey Craig Williams into the discussion, relying on his years of experience of riding at Sha Tin.
“I want to see what the patterns of racing are for the Japanese horses and hope Craig can find a way to be one off the fence with a trail.”