Payne puts faith in pair for Australian Guineas

Rock Hero (centre) will race in a sub-mile run at Flemington this weekend. Picture: JENNY EVANS
Rock Hero (centre) will race in a sub-mile run at Flemington this weekend. Picture: JENNY EVANS


David Payne takes a couple of colts at different ends of the experience spectrum to Saturday's Australian Guineas at Flemington hoping they can finally prove themselves at the top level.

Criterion and Rock Hero have both had one run at 1400m to get ready for the Guineas and Payne believes both are milers.

"The way I was taught was that you don't need that many runs to get them ready for the mile, they will both go into the race fresh and ready to go," Payne said.

"They both had chances at Group 1 level and we think they are up to it but they still have to prove it on the track.

"They have pleased since their first-up runs and we going into the race very happy."

Criterion has experience on his side running in five Group 1s in his 12 starts.

There were the sixths in the Golden Slipper and Champagne Stakes as a two-year-old, before being down the track in the Golden Rose, but being a Spring Champion Stakes runner-up and fourth in Victoria Derby, argue well for his chances on Saturday.

"He has been there before but I think the mile is his best trip on the big track, which is what he gets in the Guineas," Payne said.

Criterion returned by running fourth in the CS Hayes Stakes behind Guineas favourite Hucklebuck when he got too far out of his ground.

"I think we will be closer than he was last time and he has the quality to win a race like this," Payne said.

"That [getting too far back in his races] was always been a problem for him."

Rock Hero returned a different horse after he put on 50kg in the spelling paddock. He was beaten into second by Thunder Fantasy in the Autumn Classic on return and was send to the Cranbourne barrier trials on Monday where he scored an easy win under raceday jockey Michael Rodd.

"He needed that and Michael came away very happy, which is a good sign," Payne said.

"He has grown up and like his mother [Gallant Tess] he is a miler."

Rock Hero earned his way into the Spring Champions Stakes at just his sixth start in his first preparation with a runaway win at Canterbury and a victory against the odds in the Dulcify Quality over the Randwick mile.

He came eighth in the Spring Champion but Payne always thought he would be a better horse given time.

"He was very immature as a two-year-old and it took him a few runs to work out what to do because he was just so big," Payne said.

"The breed [Fastnet Rocks] seem to get better as they mature but he has always looked a racehorse.

"He scored those two wins and then he was probably over the top when he went to the Spring Champion Stakes."


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