Criterion has firmed in Golden Slipper markets after winning Saturday's Todman Stakes but still has a way to go to challenge Overreach, a dominant winner of the Reisling Stakes.
The David Payne-trained Criterion ($6) came from worse than midfield in the Todman and got the better of Fast `N' Rocking ($9) by a head but his time of 1.10.70s was more than .50s slower than Overreach who ran out an easy winner of the fillies division at Rosehill.
Corey Brown was tossed from Sidestep at the beginning of the race but the riderless horse kept out of the way of the field which was led by Charlie Boy ($5) from favourite Whiskey Allround ($3.90).
The winner of the Black Opal Stakes in his first start in blinkers, Criterion represents what Payne believes is his best chance to win the $3.5 million Slipper on April 6.
"We've got a live hope for the Slipper," Payne said.
"They went a bit slow today but he still finished it off and a fast-run Slipper will suit him.
"He is a very good horse and although I think he will be better as a three-year-old he is showing what he can do."
Criterion beat Sidestep to win the Black Opal with Glyn Schofield aboard but Craig Williams took over on Saturday.
Williams said he did not yet have a confirmed ride in the Slipper but Criterion was certainly on the list.
"My manager Mark Guest looks after that but this horse sits in the top five," he said.
"He has a great attitude and the way Slippers are run, it would suit him.
"He was very strong late and I was impressed with him."
Criterion firmed from $26 to $13 in TAB's Slipper market with Fast `N' Rocking tightening from $51 to $15.
Charlie Boy eased from $15 to $17 and could back up in next week's Pago Pago Stakes to assure himself of a Slipper start after his Todman fourth.
Bookmakers reacted to Overreach's domination of Villa Verde in the Reisling by screwing her in to $2.10 while Villa Verde eased from $6 to $11 but remained the second favourite.