The Criterion Stakes Preview
On the weekend of Newcastle Racecourse's Northumberland Plate, Newmarket is also the scene for some quality Saturday afternoon racing action this weekend and their card is headlined by the Group 3 Criterion Stakes. The seven-furlong event will go to post at 3.15pm and it has stirred up plenty of interest already this week – with Frankie Dettori a notable absentee on fancied runner Sunray Major. Looking for more betting, check out the Bet UK sportsbook for more!
Frankie remains the story
Frankie Dettori has no ride in the big race at Newmarket on Saturday – he will ride for Ralph Beckett and owner and friend Marc Chan earlier on the card – after John & Thady Gosden elected to put James Doyle on Sunray Major for this assignment. It has caused quite a media frenzy this week, with speculation rife that Dettori's position as retained rider at Clarehaven Stables is about to end. The spotlight will be firmly on all parties concerned come race-day.
Sunray Major comes into this race having finished a close fourth in the Group 3 John of Gaunt Stakes at Haydock last time, right behind re-opposing pair Pogo and Laneqash. That pair were always front and centre on Merseyside, while Dettori and Sunray Major were out the back in an eight-runner field. That represented a slight change in tactics for the Gosden's inmate, who had previously been ridden handily.
Cheekpieces go on for the first time now and it wouldn't be the greatest shock in the world should placings from Haydock be reversed.
Pogo was allowed to dictate in front last time and may not get the same rope here, while Laneqash is 0-6 since his winning bow at Ascot in 2020 and needs to prove he has the will to win required at this level.
Palmer charge Given a chance to shine
The other piece of form that impacts heavily here is EVER GIVEN's win at Epsom on Oaks Day in the Listed Surrey Stakes. A smart 2YO with lots of speed, he won a big Sales race at York's Ebor Meeting in August, the fourth and final success of his juvenile campaign (inched out at Doncaster in a similar race afterwards, 4-8 record last year).
Switched from Tom Dascombe to new Manor Farm boss Hugo Palmer in the winter, Ever Given easily won a Chester handicap over 6f on soft ground on last month's return.
He didn't do himself justice in the Sandy Lane at Haydock next time, though perhaps that quick ascent into Group 2 company was asking plenty.
At Epsom, returned to this trip, he came with a strong late surge to overcome Oscula (Listed winner since), with today's rival Bass Player in third. Danny Tudhope's mount has that bit more on his plate now but he's 2-2 at this trip and could still have plenty more to come, taking on mostly older rivals and getting weight.
Selection: Ever Given
Next Best: Sunray Major