Criterion "has done nothing wrong" as a two-year-old yet the last two winning jockeys to ride him will be on other runners in Saturday's $3.5 million Golden Slipper (1200 metres) at Rosehill.
"Jockeys are the worst judges," trainer David Payne said dismissively. "Ask them if they want to be on him now."
The barrier draw only reinforced Criterion's claims as he will jump from barrier two with Hugh Bowman in the saddle. Glyn Schofield, who rode him to a stunning win in the Black Opal, will be on Charlie Boy, which jumps from 14, while Craig Williams, who had the seat in Criterion's Todman Stakes win, rides Ruud Awakening, which has the outside alley of 18. "The jockeys want to lock away their rides so early for these races," Payne said. "Glyn was committed to the other horse before the Black Opal, but I'm sure he would love to change now.
"Craig had been booked for the Kiwi filly. So no one really turned the ride down. We had to find someone and there were plenty of offers, and Hugh Bowman is one of the best around."
Payne says Criterion is underrated but he couldn't blame the jockeys for their assessment as he doesn't have the Sebring colt at the top of his list of juveniles.
"I trained some really good two-year-olds in South Africa, so I have had better," he said. "He isn't up with them yet but that could change very quickly on Saturday. I still think he is underrated, but most of my horses are, he goes out, wins, and has never disappointed me."
Criterion has won three of his four starts, beating Slipper opposition each time - Sweet Idea, Sidestep and Fast 'N' Rocking filled runners-up stalls in his wins. However, it was his only defeat, in the Canonbury Stakes behind Never Can Tell and Whittington in February, which benefited him most. That was when Payne realised blinkers were needed to find the best from Criterion.
"You could just see it. He needed something to focus him and that's what [the blinkers] have done," he said. "It has got him concentrating and turned him around."
Criterion sat wide at the tail of the field in the Black Opal before storming to victory down the centre and then made a long run again to win the Todman Stakes two weeks ago. It is that style of racing that will be suited come Saturday when the pressure is turned up many notches on what is likely to be a wet track.
"No one really knows how their horses are going to react on the wet track, it makes the race more interesting," Payne said. "I thought the favourite [Overreach] was vulnerable, even though she has been very impressive. She has been able to do it her way at her wins and that will not happen in the Slipper.
"I can't see her out in front having things her own way on Saturday, like she has in her wins. My horse will race in his same style, it is just whether he is good enough."