ATC Derby winner Criterion returned last Friday to David Payne’s stables in career-best condition. Payne was delighted how Criterion, who also won the Rosehill Guineas during an emphatic Sydney carnival, spelled at Carramar Park at the foot of the Blue Mountains.

“He’s come back in good condition, the best condition he’s ever come back,” enthused Payne. “He’s put on weight and is much more mature. I’m very happy with him.”

Payne said Criterion would be entered for the Caulfield Cup as well as the Cox Plate, but the latter is the primary focus.

He said Criterion would not be entered for the Melbourne Cup as he did not feel the son of Sebring was a genuine stayer.

“I believe that he’s about a 2000-metre horse,” Payne said.

“I think class got him home in the Derby, so hopefully the Cox Plate is where we will be heading.”

Payne said Criterion was likely to open his spring campaign in Sydney before switching to Melbourne, with the Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes at Moonee Valley pencilled into the preparation.

Criterion has not raced at Moonee Valley and Payne is keen to give the horse a start at the track before the Cox Plate.

He said he didn’t think the track would pose a problem as Criterion is such a “versatile, laid-back” horse.

“From a two-year-old, he’s been the same. Nothing fazes him,” Payne said. (report, Racing Network)