One of Australia’s premier hoops Damien Oliver celebrated his fifth Mackinnon Stakes victory on Victoria Derby Day this afternoon with the always honest Happy Trails atoning for a luckless Cox Plate run seven days ago with his third Group 1 success.
Oliver has ridden four previous Mackinnon Stakes winners over the years and today was aboard the right horse in the $1 million, 2000m weight-for-age showdown at Flemington.
It was a photo finish in the classic with Happy Trails ($7) declared the narrow champion over the Chris Waller-trained Epsom Handicap champion He’s Your Man ($6) with the Roger Varian-trained European raider Farraaj ($11) running third in his Australian race debut.
The Mackinnon Stakes result broke a notable winning drought for the Paul Beshara-trained Happy Trails, the Good Journey seven-year-old not having won a race since the Turnbull Stakes over this track and distance back in October last year.
His other elite level triumph was the 2012 Emirates Stakes over the Flemington mile two springs back, a race Oliver also rode him to victory in.
“He’s a ripper,” Oliver told the media post-win today.
“I’m so rapt for Paul Beshara. He’s had a luckless spring and it’s great for him to win a big one.”
Today there was a battle for the early lead in the Mackinnon Stakes, the results all but finalising the 2014 Melbourne Cup field with the Robert Hickmott-trained Amralah failing to run top three.
Mourinho set the pace before the Peter Moody-trained Brambles, backing up in three days’ time in the $6.2 million Group 1 Emirates Melbourne Cup (3200m), hit the front 1000m out.
Eventual third placegetter Farraaj was positioned nicely third on the outside ready to run home strongly.
Going into the famous Flemington straight Happy Trails was widest on the turn battling over the closing stages with He’s Your Man for the photo finish.
It was the sixth straight Group 1 run this time in for Happy Trails who came off a close sixth behind Adelaide in the Cox Plate at Moonee Valley when held up at a vital stage entering the straight hampering his run home in the weight-for-age classic.
“It was a tough run race (the Cox Plate),” Oliver said.
“He deserved to win a big race this spring.
“I couldn’t let Joao the Brazilian win them all!
“It’s a great thrill to win a big race on Derby Day.”
‘The Magic Man’ Joao Moreira won the opening Group 1 on the card today aboard Waller’s top three-year-old Brazen Beau in the Coolmore Stud Stakes and was in the saddle of the Mackinnon runner-up He’s Your Man.
Beshara was also thrilled to have the luck today declaring Happy Trails the best weight-for-age horse in the country.
“He’s won his three Group 1s now in a photo, and he’s lost a couple of Group 1s by photos too,” he said.
“I reckon he’s the best weight-for-age horse in Australia, if not the world.”
The world could now be Happy Trails’ oyster with plans to head to Sha Tin Racecourse in Hong Kong next month for the International Race Day, the Group 1 Hong Kong Cup (2000m) the obvious target.
“I’d sleep with him he’s just a great horse,” Beshara said.
“He’s been so accommodating. He gives you his heart.”
Last year’s Mackinnon Stakes winner Side Glance, scratched from today’s race after pulling up lame in trackwork on Thursday, also targeted the Hong Kong Cup and ran a close fifth to Akeed Mofeed.
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2014 Mackinnon Stakes Results & Finishing Order
Flemington Race 6 – 01/11/2014
|1||2||HAPPY TRAILS||Paul Beshara||Damien Oliver||–||12||59kg||$7|
|2||8||HE’S YOUR MAN (FR)||Chris Waller||Joao Moreira||0.1L||5||59kg||$6|
|3||9||FARRAAJ (IRE)||Roger Varian||Andrea Atzeni||0.85L||14||59kg||$12|
|4||11||SPILLWAY (GB)||David Hayes & Tom Dabernig||Kerrin McEvoy||2.35L||13||59kg||$21|
|5||13||CRITERION (NZ)||David Payne||Corey Brown||3.6L||1||58.5kg||$5.50F|
|6||15||RISING ROMANCE (NZ)||Donna Logan||James McDonald||3.7L||11||56.5kg||$8|
|7||7||MOURINHO||Peter Gelagotis||Craig Newitt||4.95L||10||59kg||$51|
|8||5||MORIARTY (IRE)||Chris Waller||Jim Cassidy||6.45L||3||59kg||$26|
|9||6||BRAMBLES (NZ)||Peter G Moody||Luke Nolen||6.75L||8||59kg||$15|
|10||10||STAR ROLLING||Peter Morgan & Craig Widdison||Stephen Baster||8.75L||6||59kg||$51|
|11||4||HAWKSPUR||Chris Waller||Tye Angland||8.95L||7||59kg||$21|
|12||14||COSTUME (NZ)||Graeme & Deborah Rogerson||Blake Shinn||12.95L||2||57kg||$41|
|13||3||FORETELLER (GB)||Chris Waller||Glen Boss||13.7L||9||59kg||$10|
|14||12||AMRALAH (IRE)||Robert Hickmott||Chad Schofield||15.7L||4||59kg||$11|
|–||1||SIDE GLANCE (GB)||Andrew Balding||Craig Williams||–||0||–||–|