Criterion chased Arc winner Golden Horn home at his last start but co-trainer David Hayes said the stallion dropped grades to beat a handy field in Saturday’s Group I Caulfield Stakes (2000m).

Michael Walker rode Criterion to victory in the Caulfield Stakes. Photo: Darryl Sherer

Criterion finished 5.3 lengths behind Arabian Queen, who inflicted Golden Horn’s only defeat in the Juddmonte International Stakes at York in August before the runner-up went on to win the Prix De l’Arc de Triomphe (2400m) in France last weekend.

“I think he’s been racing in the Olympics and he’s back in the national championships now,” David Hayes, who trains Criterion in partnership with Tom Dabernig, said.

“People just don’t understand how good they are over there.

“He got flattened by Golden Horn and should have finished closer to him and he would be Black Caviar odds, Golden Horn, if he ran in something here.”

Hayes said spelling during the northern hemisphere summer, rather than the Australian winter, left Criterion in terrific condition for his return to racing in the Caulfield Stakes.

Jockey Michael Walker let Criterion settle at the back of the field before the son of Sebring sprinted brilliantly in the straight to beat the game Happy Trails by a half-length.

The Kiwi galloper Mongolian Khan took third ahead of the $3.50 favourite Kermadec.

“He did the big job there. Off a slow tempo, he gave them a start, he travelled wide and he gave them a beating,” Hayes said.

“You have just got to look at his skin. He’s ahead of them.

“Instead of having a winter in the cold here, he’s just been ticking along, been played with and babied and I knew the 2000 would suit him.”

Criterion’s win produced changes in the Cox Plate betting with the stallion firming from $12 into $5 while Kermadec has eased from $5 to $6.

Fawkner’s average effort to finish sixth prompted Sportsbet to ease his Cox Plate quote from $9 to $13.