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Adelaide horseman Paul Beshara is hoping it is fourth time lucky for his always-honest galloper Happy Trails who runs in Saturday’s Cox Plate 2015 at Moonee Valley having contested the past three editions of the weight-for-age classic.
The Good Journey gelding has won just seven of his 55 career starts but has amassed over $3 million in prize money with three over those victories being in Group 1 company.
The now eight-year-old is best known for his wins in the 2012 Emirates Stakes over the Flemington mile, the 2013 Turnbull Stakes at the same track over 2000m and most recently the 2014 Mackinnon Stakes last Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival.
Happy Trails hasn’t won again since last year’s Mackinnon triumph, which came on the back of a sixth when beaten under a length in a blanket finish to the $3 million Group 1 W.S. Cox Plate (2040m) won in 2014 by Irish raider Adelaide.
That was the third year on the trot Beshara’s Morphettville-based ran in Australasia’s weight-for-age championship, which he contests again this Saturday as one of 14 hopefuls in a capacity Cox Plate field in 2015.
In 2012 Happy Trails made his maiden Cox Plate appearance when 10th to Kiwi visitor Ocean Park before his best finish yet, a second behind Shamus Award when beaten a nose in 2013.
This time in he has had five runs, the best of which was a fortnight ago when runner-up crossing a half-length off the David Hayes & Tom Dabernig-trained international performer Criterion in the Group 1 Caulfield Stakes (2000m) on October 10.
Ocean Park (2012) was the last horse to win a Cox Plate coming out of the Caulfield Stakes when completing the double three years ago, Sebring stallion Criterion well fancied to be the next as the $6 second favourite in the latest Cox Plate odds at Ladbrokes.com.au – home of Best Tote or SP + 20% on all Moonee Valley races this Saturday!
Cox Plate betting is currently led by Highland Reel ($5), winner of this season’s Secretariat Stakes in the USA which last year’s Cox Plate winner Adelaide also won in the lead-up.
The Irish-trained galloper is also prepared by the same trainer as Adelaide was when he won the classic 12 months ago, Adian O’Brien, and has drawn a treat in barrier four with last year’s Cox Plate winning jockey Ryan Moore booked for the ride chasing back-to-back trophies.
Happy Trails meanwhile is a $21 outsider in the markets despite his gun Caulfield Stakes run last time out, with Dwayne Dunn back aboard replacing Mark Zahra in the saddle this weekend.
“He’s right on track,” Beshara said of Happy Trails speaking to Racing Ahead this week.
“His first run was the Memsie (when 12th), he never saw daylight.
“Then he went into the Makybe Diva (finishing fifth to Fawkner) over a mile at Flemington, he was wide all the way but held on lovely.
“I really wanted him to have a good hitout in the Turnbull (when 10th), but he never saw daylight.
“Dwayne (Dunn) come in and said he hadn’t got out of second gear.
“So I backed him up the following week in the Caulfield Stakes, because he just had to have a hitout.”
No eight-year-old has won a Cox Plate since Super Impose (1992) and he is also drawn wide in barrier 13 (of 14).
Barrier 13 however has produced two Cox Plate winners since 2000 with Sunline winning his second from the gate 15 years ago and Adelaide getting the job done from 13 last season, and Beshara believes the wide barrier could work in his horse’s favour.
“Really, it might be in his favour. You’ve got to look on the positive side. There’ll be a lot of speed in the race, he might just slot in somewhere nice and run over the top of them,” he said.
Other eight-year-olds looking to break the hoodoo in this year’s Cox Plate include fellow Group 1 winners Mourinho ($26) and Fawkner ($15).
Beshara isn’t only focused on this weekend’s Cox Plate, but is also hoping to run Happy Trails in his maiden $6.2 million Group 1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) over two miles on the first Tuesday of November at Flemington.
Happy Trails currently sits well down the Melbourne Cup ballot in 57th spot and as such is rated only a $101 chance in the futures markets for the ‘race that stops a nation’ at Ladbrokes.
“We’ll just see how he goes in the Cox Plate. It’d be nice for him to go into a Melbourne Cup … you know what, he’s always won a race after the Cox Plate, so for that to be the Melbourne Cup would be nice,” Beshara said.
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