Black Opal a crucial test for Criterion
Mandy Cottell
06:50 AEST Fri Mar 8 2013

David Payne's hopes of having a Golden Slipper runner hinge on the performance of Criterion in Sunday's Black Opal Stakes in Canberra.

The Sydney trainer rates Criterion as the pick of his current crop of youngsters but the colt still needs to prove that will be good enough to gain a berth in the world's richest juvenile race.

"I think he is our Slipper hope unless something else pops out of the ground," Payne said.

"He is the type of horse who can sit midfield and come home strongly and that's what you need in a Slipper."

Criterion boasts a debut victory over subsequent Silver Slipper winner Sweet Idea but he will have to contend with a wide gate in the Black Opal (1200m).

A field of 14 plus six emergencies has accepted for the feature and with the Peter Snowden-trained Aspen an early scratching, Criterion will jump from the second outside stall.

Snowden will now rely on Sidestep in his quest to win the race for the second successive year following the victory by Epaulette 12 months ago.

The $250,000 Black Opal is one of four stakes races on Sunday's card which also includes the Canberra Cup (2000m).

Sydney Cup winner Niwot heads the field for the staying contest which also contains black-type performers Fast Clip and Shadows In The Sun.

A field of 15 has been assembled for the National Sprint (1400m) including the in-form Riva De Lago and last year's runner-up Onthelookout, while Group One-placed Ashokan is among the contenders for the Canberra Guineas (1400m).

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