This year’s Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot is shaping up to be a “classic”, according to one of the leading contenders for the Group One renewal.
David Hayes was speaking as his charge Criterion was put through his paces at the Racecourse this morning just shy of two weeks ahead of his intended run in the feature of Wednesday’s card at the Royal Meeting.
The Australian is one of several overseas stars being aimed at the Prince of Wales's Stakes with ‘America’s Horse’ California Chrome, due to gallop at Ascot on Thursday, and Japan’s Spielberg also in the race.
After spending the morning at Ascot on Tuesday, Hayes was pleased with Criterion’s work and looks forward with confidence to the 17th March showdown with Europe's best.
“He’s a horse that thrives on not a lot of work, but we just felt that with six weeks between runs we’d give him a good look at Ascot and a good hit out two weeks before his race,” said Hayes.
“It was a semi-relief that he went on with it today because he’s not a great worker.
“The horse was very comfortable at Ascot which is a nice thing two weeks before the race.”
As for his likely opposition, Hayes is excited about the prospect of lining up against some of the best middle-distance runners in the world and is targeting either Ryan Moore or Frankie Dettori to ride Criterion.
“I’ll start looking at the opposition as of now,” he said. “There are obvious contenders, I hear there’s a very good horse from Japan, and of course the American champion so I think it’s going to be a classic Prince of Wales's.
“Any Group One is hard, let alone at Royal Ascot. If all the imports that are coming bring their ‘A’ game then it’s going to be like an Olympics for horses.”
He added: “Our first choice is Ryan Moore or Frankie, but if they’re not available then we’ll turn to an Australian jockey.
“Craig Williams could be an option, while Damien Oliver is already here to ride Wandjina for Gai Waterhouse in the Diamond Jubilee so we could book him.”
Looking ahead to the week, Nick Smith, Ascot’s Head of Communications and International racing, said: “It's all coming together now with the international horses shipping in and going through their paces.
"David was here with Niconi a few years back but Criterion is the middle distance champion of Australia so this is new ground for him and us.
“It has always been our aspiration to see international participation in the Prince Of Wales's Stakes and the Queen Anne, as well as the sprints.
“This year, with the United States, Japan and Australia having runners in the former and Able Friend about to ship over for the Queen Anne from Hong Kong, we are looking forward to a very cosmopolitan week."