Trainer Paul Beshara admits his top galloper Happy Trails will likely need the Underwood Stakes run this weekend but that he would be “cherry ripe” for the upcoming 2014 Cox Plate at the end of next month.
Good Journey gelding Happy Trails ran in last year’s $3 million Group 1 W.S. Cox Plate (2040m) and finished a devastatingly close second behind three-year-old Shamus Award in the Moonee Valley classic.
This year then Beshara is hoping the now seven-year-old can go one better in Australasia’s weight-for-age championship on October 25.
In the latest Cox Plate odds at Ladbrokes.com.au Happy Trails is only rated a $34 chance in markets led by last year’s Caulfield Cup winner Fawkner ($10) and Peter Moody’s Memsie Stakes – Makybe Diva Stakes winning four-year-old Dissident ($11).
That’s a price however that is sure to firm if Happy Trails can come out at Caulfield Racecourse on Saturday and run well in the $400,000 Group 1 Hyland Race Colours Underwood Stakes (1800m).
“He has taken me on a ride I could never imagine and at the end of it, as you get into your twilight years, it is a great feeling,” Beshara said at Caulfield on Tuesday morning after Happy Trails’ solid hit-out at the track.
“He’s going very well, he’ll need the run (on Saturday) and I think you’ll see him cherry ripe after that.”
He is currently one of 25 nominations for the weight-for-age showdown that will feature a start-studded field of gallopers including the likes of Kiwi mare Silent Achiever and the Chris Waller-trained dual Doncaster Mile champion Sacred Falls.
“Everybody ignores him and goes the high-profile stuff and that suits us,” Beshara added.
Happy Trails is following the same path he took last year into the Cox Plate.
Last spring he ran fifth in Adelaide’s Group 3 Spring Stakes (1200m) then seventh to Atlantic Jewel in the Group 1 Memsie Stakes (1400m).
This year the form is nearly identical with a first-up fifth followed by a Memsie Stakes eighth to Dissident, who is unlikely to back-up in the Underwood, last time out on August 30.
Twelve months ago Happy Trails was beaten just over a length by It’s A Dundeel in the Underwood Stakes, with Beshara tipping a similar finish on Saturday where Michael Rodd will stay on after riding him for the Caulfield hitout on Tuesday.
“He had a good blow and (Rodd) came in and was very impressed,” Beshara said of yesterday’s gallop.
“I’d expect him to run in the first five on Saturday, I don’t expect him to win – if he did look out.
“He’ll be running in the first five and he’ll be hitting the line very good.”
From there the horse will defend his title in the $500,000 Group 1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m) at Flemington on October 4 before the Cox Plate three weeks later.
To back Happy Trails this weekend in the Underwood Stakes make sure you do so online at Ladbrokes.com.au where you’ll get paid Best Tote + 20% on the Melbourne Group 1 to kick off your spring on a high!