The 2013 Cox Plate lead-up form of Happy Trails has been overshadowed by the controversy surrounding trainer Paul Beshara but the Good Journey gelding will head into the Group 1 event at Moonee Valley on Saturday as one of only four last-start winners in the field.
Happy Trails has improved in each of his four starts this campaign, since finishing fifth first-up in the Group 3 Spring Stakes (1200m) in Adelaide, and will be going into the Cox Plate on the back of his impressive victory in the Group 1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m).
The Turnbull Stakes is often a key Cox Plate form guide and Happy Trails has been well backed in betting markets since the withdrawal of Atlantic Jewel and is into odds of $14.
Trainer Bryon Cozamanis only acquired Happy Trails after regular trainer Paul Beshara was suspended by the Racing Appeals and Disciplinary board for treating Happy Trails before the running of the Group 2 Dato’ Tan Chin Nam Stakes at Moonee Valley on September 14 but he told Thorough Media that he has been happy with the six-year-old since he joined his care earlier this week.
“He is a very good horse and he trialed very well yesterday morning,” Cozamanis said.
“He always runs an honest race so he should be there abouts.
“He worked over 1100 and he finished the work off good.
“He pulled up very well, he was jumping around this morning, and I am very happy with him.”
Cozamanis lacks the trademark confidence of Beshara but admitted that the chances of Happy Trails were enhanced following yesterday’s withdrawal of glamour mare Atlantic Jewel from the race.
“It does help with her out but there are still a few more there to beat,” Cozamanis said.
“It does make it a little bit easier with her out that is for sure.”
Beshara was hopeful that he may be reinstated to his training duties before the Cox Plate but his application for a stay was rejected and his appeal date has been pushed back until next month.
It’s A Dundeel, Seville and Long John are the only other runners in the Cox Plate field that are going into the race as last start winners.
Four of the last ten winners (Ocean Park, So You Think, Makybe Diva and Savabeel) were victorious in their last starts before the Cox Plate; with champion mare Makybe Diva the last horse to win the Cox Plate after being successful in the Turnbull Stakes three weeks earlier.