The Group 1 $400,000 Sportingbet C.F. Orr Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield on February 14 will be the Melbourne Autumn Carnival opener for three times Group 1 winner Happy Trails.
In a change of plans Morphettville trainer Paul Beshara will kick off Happy Trails’ campaign in mid-February to have him fit for the Group 1 $1m Australian Cup (2000m) at Flemington a month later.
Beshara had originally earmarked the Group 1 $400,000 Futurity Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield on February 28 for his return but a start in the C.F. Orr Stakes will allow Happy Trails to have a run over 1800m in the Group 2 $200,000 Peter Young Stakes at Caulfield on the same day as the Futurity Stakes in the lead up to the Australian Cup.
“He’ll have a jump-out and a trial before the Orr but that’s still a month or so off,” Beshara told AAP.
“He’s just up to doing evens at this stage.”
Beshara sent Happy Trails for a break after winning the Group 1 $1m Longines Mackinnon Stakes on November 1 over the same course and distance as the Australian Cup but has kept the seven year old’s fitness up with daily sessions on the walker before being let loose to run in the paddock.
“We put him on the walker everyday as he gets older as he needs a bit of exercise,” Beshara said.
Happy Trails has proven to be somewhat of a Flemington specialist with all his three Group 1 victories occurring at the famous course.
The giant chestnut recorded his first Group 1 win in the 2012 $1m Emirates Stakes (1600m) during the Melbourne Spring Carnival but had to wait almost twelve months before collecting his second Group 1 trophy by taking out the 2013 $500,000 Turnbull Stakes (2000m).
And then during last year’s Melbourne Spring Carnival Happy Trials was rewarded with a third Group 1 win in the Mackinnon Stakes following an unlucky sixth to Adelaide in the Group 1 $3m Sportingbet Cox Plate (2040m) at Moonee Valley at his previous start.
Happy Trails has been a consistent Group 1 performer over the last three seasons and was narrowly denied a victory in the Weight For Age Championship of Australasia when beaten a lip by three year old Shamus Award in the 2013 Cox Plate.
Beshara is also keen to head to Sydney after the Melbourne Autumn Carnival to tackle the Group 1 $4m Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) at Randwick on April 11 during ‘The Championships’ and hasn’t ruled out a run in the Group 1 $3m Doncaster Mile (1600m) at Randwick the week before.
“We’ll throw in a nomination and see what they come up with,” Beshara said.
“If we can get into the Doncaster with a good weight we’d go with it, but he wouldn’t want to be carrying a train.”