Criterion willingly took to the front entering the Royal Randwick stretch in the AUS$4 million Longines Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Aus-I) and shot clear to best an international field on April 11, Day 2 of The Championships.
Fiveandhalfstar took charge from the start, with Aomen, Criterion, and Beaten Up in close attendance. He still had control around the home turn before a keen Criterion pounced and broke clear for a 2 1/2-length triumph over fast-finishing Red Cadeaux, who raced well back after two early checks.
Doncaster Mile (Aus-I) third-place Royal Descent was third again, three-quarters of a length back in the 12-horse field for Australia's richest weight-for-age contest.
With Craig Williams aboard, Criterion covered 2,000 meters (about 1 1/4 miles) in 2:05.35 on soft turf.
Japanese raider and favorite To the World was always well back and was pulled up quickly in a last-place finish. Coolmore and partners' grade/group I winner Adelaide was eighth.
Criterion won the 2014 Rosehill Guineas (Aus-I) and the Australian Derby (Aus-I) consecutive starts for previous trainer David Payne, and underscored his international credentials when a length third in the Hong Kong Cup (HK-I) in December at Sha Tin. The 4-year-old Sebring colt placed twice at the group I level in two starts since then, most recently his short head second to Real Impact in the George Ryder Stakes (Aus-I) March 21 at Rosehill Gardens.
Former Hong Kong-based trainer David Hayes, who conditions Criterion with Tom Dabernig, said plans call for his charge to run in Hong Kong in the April 26 Queen Elizabeth II Cup (HK-I) at Sha Tin.
"As long, of course, that he pulls up well from today and he's fit and well, then the return to Hong Kong is locked in," Hayes said.
Both Hayes and owner Sir Owen Glenn told Fox Sports said they'd thought about Criterion to go to Royal Ascot in June for the Prince of Wales's (Eng-I), a 1 1/4-mile race for which U.S. Horse of the Year California Chrome is training.
"And he'll win it," Glenn said of Criterion.
With Saturday's win, Criterion qualified for an automatic berth in the $3 million Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) Oct. 31 at Keeneland via the Breeder's Cup Challenge series.
International star Red Cadeaux has posted several commendable efforts on the international stage, including his win in the Hong Kong Vase (HK-I), three runner-up finishes in the Melbourne Cup (Aus-I) in 2011, 2013, and 2014, and a second place in the 2013 Dubai World Cup (UAE-I).
British-based trainer Ed Dunlop was on hand to see Ronald Arculli's evergreen gelding bravely second again, but thought he was a bit unlucky.
"We have a couple of options with him, but Hong Kong's the most likely," he said.
Kerrin McEvoy, who rode Red Cadeaux, agreed that he was unlucky despite Criterion's margin of victory.
"He ran superbly," McEvoy said. "If he gets out a touch sooner with a clearer run, then I think he would have given the winner a fright. I'm not saying he definitely would have won, but he might have made it interesting."
Red Cadeaux picked up AUS$750,000 for his runner-up finish.
Criterion earned AUS $2 million for his effort and improved his career line to 6-6-4 from 26 career starts. Bred by Go Bloodstock New Zealand, his dam is New Zealand group III winner Mica's Pride, by Bite the Bullet.