It may have taken Damien Oliver more than 20 years to win his first Group 1 Australian Cup (2000m) but the champion hoop could soon double his success. As the saying goes: good things come to those who wait.
Oliver had seven placings to his name in the $1 million weight-for-age race, including running second with Winning Belle (2005) and Princess Coup (2008), but finally broke through to the winner’s circle last year with Fiorente.
The jockey could score his second win in the Australian Cup in as many seasons as he’s set to ride Flemington track specialist Happy Trails on Saturday.
Happy Trails is one of 37 horses nominated for the race and one of the leading hopes in the betting at Ladbrokes.com.au. Group 1 Chipping Norton Stakes (1600m) runner-up Hartnell is the current favourite at $5 followed by Group 1 Emirates Melbourne Cup (3200m) winner Protectionist at $5.50 while Happy Trails is on the third line of betting at $6.
“He’s going well and he’s going to be around the mark,” Oliver told Sky Racing.
“He loves Flemington and loves the 2000 metres. He’s had a great preparation and I’m very happy with him.”
The Paul Beshara-trained seven-year-old gelding loves Flemington with all three of his Group One victories coming at the track, the first of which was the Group 1 Emirates Stakes (1600m) back in 2012. Almost one year later he won the Group 1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m) followed by the Group 1 Mackinnon Stakes (2000m) four months ago on November 1.
Both Besara and Oliver have been impressed with the gelding’s two starts this campaign and believe he’ll be competitive in the 2015 Australian Cup.
Happy Trails resumed in the Group 1 CF Orr Stakes (1400m) on February 14, fighting on well in the sprint home after getting caught wide from his awkward starting gate (14 of 15), in which he finished four and a half lengths off winner Dissident in sixth place.
He was more impressive in his second start two weeks later, finishing runner-up to Mourinho in the Group 2 Peter Young Stakes (1800m). Both races were held at Caulfield and Oliver believes a return to Flemington will see him improve even more on Saturday.
“Both his runs have been pleasing and I think he’s a better horse at Flemington,” Oliver said.
Following the 2015 Australian Cup, Happy Trails will travel to Sydney to contest The Championships at Randwick on April 4 and 11. The gelding featured in first acceptances for both the Group 1 Doncaster Mile (1600m) and Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) yesterday afternoon.
If you think the Flemington track specialist has what it takes to win the Australian Cup, place an early bet on Happy Trails at Ladbrokes.com.au today.
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