Trainer David Hayes couldn’t be happier with star four-year-old Criterion ahead of Sunday’s Group 1 QEII Cup (2000m) in Hong Kong.

Criterion worked with Zac Purton - who will ride his rival Military Attack on Sunday - in the saddle over 1200m on the course proper on Wednesday morning in 1 minute, 24.4 seconds, running his last 400m in 24.2 seconds.

Hayes, who trains in partnership with nephew Tom Dabernig, said he was thrilled with the way the son of Sebring has come through his last-start win in the $4 million Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m).

“Zac Purton thought the horse went terrific and he couldn’t believe how quiet and relaxed he was for a colt,” Hayes said.

“He physically looks at least the same if not better than before the Queen Elizabeth but definitely no worse.”

Sunday’s race will be the second time Criterion runs in Hong Kong after he finished third in the Hong Kong International Cup (2000m) at his first start for Hayes and Dabernig in December.

Beaten by Designs On Rome and Military Attack on that occasion, Hayes said Criterion has enjoyed a better preparation this time around.

“He’s a long way ahead of where he was when we were here last time, last time he had a reaction to the tick-wash which we treated as if he had colic when he didn’t,” he said.

“Last time he had the saddle off his back for five or six days which wasn’t ideal and he also wasn’t in winning form whereas this time he’s had the perfect preparation.”

Hayes confirmed Criterion has also been entered for three races in the UK, the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes (2000m) and Queen Anne Stakes (1600m) at Royal Ascot in June and the Coral-Eclipse Stakes (2000m) at Sandown in July.

Hayes said the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes was the most likely option of the three for Criterion if he came through his run in Hong Kong in good order. (