Criterion shooting for Cox Plate/Melbourne Cup double

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Criterion

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CriterionQueen Elizabeth Stakes winner Criterion is being set for the Melbourne Spring carnival, including a tilt at the Cox Plate/Melbourne Cup double.

Only five horses have completed the Group 1 double (Nightmarch, Phar Lap, Rising Fast, Saintly and Makybe Diva) and Criterion looks a chance to add its name to the list.

Co-trainer David Hayes is enjoying a holiday in Europe after travelling there with Criterion, and he said it would have one lead-up run, the Caulfield Stakes, before moving towards Moonee Valley on October 24.

Hayes had initially planned to bring the four-year-old home after finishing fifth in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot, but was held back by the lack of quarantine services.

“He will now come in with the first internationals,” Hayes said.

It is unknown whether Criterion could handle the 3200-metre Melbourne Cup distance, but Hayes believes it will see out the distance.

“He’s had one run at a mile and a half and he won the Derby, so he looks like he could get the trip,” Hayes said.

“If he’s racing well, owner Sir Owen Glenn is very keen to have a crack at the Melbourne Cup.”

Racing Victoria chief handicapper Greg Carpenter said the multiple Group 1 winner would be faced with a big weight at the conditions.

“When you are 57kg-plus, the record in that weight range in the past 40 years is that only a handful have been able to win it,” Carpenter said.

“Any horse on the world stage rated 120 or higher is in the top 20 or 30 horses in the world, and Criterion is rated at that level.

“He was a dominant winner of the Queen Elizabeth during The Championships and he won the [ATC] Derby in rain-affected going, so he’s a high-quality horse and I’d be reasonably confident he’d be able to be competitive in the Melbourne Cup.”

Criterion is currently priced at $11 for the Cox Plate at Sportsbet.com.au, but has yet to be added to the 2015 Melbourne Cup market.

Its best chance is in the Cox Plate where the Royal Ascot winner Solow holds favouritism at $7 with bookmakers.

Whiteley involved in slinging match with stewards

Jockey Chris Whiteley was on cloud nine after winning the Ramornie Handicap aboard Rock Royalty at Grafton on Wednesday, but the celebrations didn’t last long as he was questioned about his careless riding as he returned to scale.

Steward Greg Rudolph called the incident “the worst interference I’ve seen” as Whiteley crossed from the wide barrier draw of 15, but caused interference to several runners in the process.

Whiteley replied with some hard-hitting words of his own.

“Oh bullshit,” Whiteley said. “That’s rubbish. You’re trying to tell me that’s worse than what we’ve seen in Golden Slippers.”

Rudolph advised Whiteley that he was facing a careless riding charge, but hinted that he would look for another charge due to Whiteley’s “demeanour”.

“Turn it up. Open your rule book and show me where it says about demeanour,” Whiteley said.

Stewards later suspended Whiteley for nine meetings, coupled with a $2000 fine due to the race being a feature event where severe interference was caused.

The horse in question, Rock Royalty, broke the track record when giving trainer Liam Birchley his second Ramornie Handicap win.

“It’s been a while, but this is a carnival we’ve always had a bit of time for,” Birchley said.

“How do you beat them when they’re leading and running that sort of time?

“The backmarkers just can’t run the sectionals to finish over the top of them.”

Rock Royalty paid $14 with CrownBet.com.au and scored its 1.5-length win over the John O’Shea-trained Barbed ($8) and Queenslander Rocket To Glory ($10).

“He’s got those maroon silks on, maybe a little bit of grit came out up the straight there,” Birchley said.

Winter Championship Final market

A full field of 16 runners and four emergencies have been accepted for the $150,000 Winter Championship Final at Flemington this Saturday.

There is a battle with the bookmakers as to which runner will start favourite – either former New Zealand runner Sir Andrew or Mr Utopia.

Sir Andrew is the current favourite with Sportsbet.com.au at $4.20, but is paying a value price of $5 at WilliamHill.com.au.

Mr Utopia holds $4.80 favouritism at WilliamHill.com.au and only Amovatio ($8) and Kenjorwood ($8) are in single figures.

The Robert Smerdon-trained Mr Utopia scored its third win since moving to Victoria for Smerdon and its improvement hasn’t been missed by bookmakers.

Sir Andrew is a former Kiwi which continues to run on well and the 1600 metres will suit nicely. Punters backing Sir Andrew are expecting a solid tempo up front, so its chances of running on late appear bright.

Not without a chance is Tiny’s Legacy which hasn’t got the best of luck in recent racing. It is paying $21 with most bookmakers, but Bet365 are offering a massive $31.

Full Winter Championship market:

1. Amovatio – $8
2. Tried And Tired – $9
3. Mr Utopia – $5 at Sportsbet.com.au
4. Good Value – $11
5. Lord Of Brazil – $41
6. Henwood – $14
7. Venture On – $13
8. Lake Sententia – $34
9. Coronation Shallan – $19
10. Pin Your Hopes – $34
11. Clanga’s Glory – $34
12. Sir Andrew – $5
13. Tiny’s Legacy – $31
14. Search Squad – $34
15. Ventic – $26
16. By The Grace – $34
17. Kenjorwood – $8
18. Metaphorical – $14
19. Travolta – $51
20. Relentless – $201

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