Trainer Paul Beshara has confirmed jockey Dwayne Dunn will have first right of refusal for the 2014 Cox Plate campaign of the ultra-consistent Happy Trails this Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival.
Dunn had a stellar season last spring aboard the Good Journey gelding including a win in the Turnbull Stakes where Happy Trails became a dual Group 1 winner following their 2012 Emirates Stakes success.
The duo were last seen crossing a devastatingly close second to gun three-year-old Shamus Award in the $3 million Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) at Moonee Valley.
The October 25 classic this season is again the major aim for Happy Trails, seven tomorrow, the galloper back with Beshara and paying $15 in the futures Cox Plate odds through Ladbrokes.com.au.
Happy Trails was officially with Byron Cozamanis for their Cox Plate bid last year with Beshara serving a six month suspension.
Behsara confirmed the rising seven-year-old, who trails in Adelaide on Friday, will also resume at Morphettville in the $115,000 Group 3 Spring Stakes (1200m).
“I’ll put him in the Spring Stakes Saturday week,” Beshara said on RSN’s Racing Ahead on Thursday morning.
Happy Trails, who missed the autumn due to a tendon injury, is now crying out for the trial having being back in work for awhile now.
“He missed a jump out last week because we’ve had that much rain,” Beshara said.
“He’s had his gallops but he really needed that jump out (he missed).
“He desperately needs the trail tomorrow needs to get his fitness level up.
“The trial tomorrow will do him nice.”
Their trainer also has zero concerns about how they’ve recovered from their injury, sustained in the Cox Plate, and their ability to continue their impressive record at the highest level.
“He’s good, very good, he’s loving it,” Beshara said.
“Good as gold now.
“He had that shockwave therapy five times…that breaks up all the blood gets it flowing.
“Had six months off and really enjoyed that.
“He has the ice boots on every day after he works…but that’s more preventative than anything else.”
For the Spring Stakes regular trackwork rider Troy Baker will have the ride, Behsara happy to keep the local hoop aboard as the horse looks to improve on their first-up fifth to Just Discreet in last year’s race.
“Hard to say to a top jockey to come over for just the one ride so we’ll let Troy ride him,” Beshara confirmed.
After that Happy Trails is Melbourne-bound and will go into the Cox Plate via the traditional lead-up to Australasia’s weight-for-age championship via the Memsie, Underwood and Turnbull Stakes where Dunn will get the chance to reunite with the champ.
“Dwayne will have first choice because he did so well on him last season,” Beshara said.
“But Damien (Oliver), Craig Williams…they’ve all been ringing up so that’s good.”
The opening elite level of the new season, the $400,000 Group 1 Memsie Stakes (1400m) takes place at Caulfield Racecourse on August 30.
That’s followed on September 20 by the $400,000 Group 1 Underwood Stakes (1800m) back at the track where Happy Trails ran a close fourth to It’s A Dundeel in last spring before the $500,000 Group 1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m) at Flemington Racecourse two weeks out from Cox Plate Day where they’ll defend their title.
Beshara would love to see Happy Trails, who has been wonderfully consistent at elite level, secure a major win in the Cox Plate to round on their return too and atone for their loss when injured last year.
“He deserves it, he deserves to win one,” he said.
“He’s always been a horse that shoulda, woulda, coulda.
“He should have won a Doncaster (10th in 2013) and should have won a Cox Plate and that would have put him as one of the al times greats.”
Beshara also confirmed his Danerich gelding Richie’s Vibe would bypass Friday’s trial and the Spring Stakes instead resuming on Memsie Stakes Day in the $150,000 Group 3 The Heath (1100m).
“Richie’s Vibe is going very good,” he said.
“They had an exhibition gallop last Saturday and his fitness level is just not where I want it to be.”
Get behind Happy Trails this spring at the hottest odds online at Ladbrokes.com.au before Cox Plate 2014 nominations close next Tuesday and the futures odds firm!