Trainer Paul Beshara is hoping that Happy Trails has the opportunity to have a true hit-out in the 2014 Caulfield Stakes this weekend so that the talented gelding is at his peak for the Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) at Moonee Valley on October 25.
Happy Trails contested the Group 1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m) at Flemington last Saturday, but he was blocked for a run in the straight and he went to the line without ever being tested by jockey Michael Rodd.
Beshara told Racing Ahead that he had not planned to run Happy Trails in the Caulfield Stakes, but revealed that the Good Journey gelding was too fresh to go straight into the Cox Plate and needed a testing run to make sure that he was at peak fitness for the Australasian Weight-For-Age Championship.
“After the race I didn’t think that I would run him in the Caulfield Stakes, but he is just too fresh,” Beshara said.
“He never really got out of a track gallop on Saturday and I thought that he can’t go into the Cox Plate being too fresh and underdone.
“You put a line through last Saturday, so you would have to say that he has gone from the Underwood into the Cox Plate and that is just too long.
“I just want to see him do his best work and then it is a fortnight into the Cox Plate.
“As I have always said that is our grand final and anything you drag in between there is a bonus.
“I really want him to have a good run.”
Rodd rode Happy Trails in the Group 1 Memsie Stakes (1400m), Group 1 Underwood Stakes (1800m) and the Turnbull Stakes, but Beshara revealed earlier in the week that Damien Oliver would replace Rodd on the seven-year-old for the rest of his 2014 Spring Racing Carnival campaign.
Beshara said that Rodd had done nothing wrong on Happy Trails in the Turnbull Stakes, but confirmed that connections were keen to give Oliver his first opportunity on the popular gelding since he steered him to victory in the 2012 edition of the Group 1 Emirates Stakes (1600m).
“The connections spoke on the Saturday night and we had discussions more on Sunday,” Beshara said.
“Quite a few jockeys had thrown their hats in the ring and they thought that Damien won the Emirates on him and they went with Damien.
“(Rodd) never made no mistakes, he rode the perfect race, but he was just unlucky and if the split had come in the straight he would have been the greatest jockey in the world.
“That is racing, that is what happens; if jockeys get off the ride on Phar Lap they will soon ring you up and say can I ride your horse.”
Happy Trails is currently available at 2014 Caulfield Stakes odds of $8, while Sacred Falls ($4.20) and Dissident ($4.20) are locked in an early battle for favouritism.