Cox Plate fancy Happy Trails is ready to sprint well while fresh when he kicks off his Spring Carnival campaign in the Group 3 $115,000 David R Coles AM Spring Stakes (1200m) at Morphettville on Saturday.
Adelaide trainer Paul Beshara has Happy Trails advanced enough to be competitive over the 1200m first up as he heads towards his major Spring goal, the Group 1 $3m Sportingbet Cox Plate (2040m) at Moonee Valley on October 25.
Happy Trails won the 2012 Spring Stakes on his way to winning his first Group 1, the $1m Emirates Stakes (1600m) at Flemington on the last day the Melbourne Cup Carnival.
And then the Good Journey gelding was an unlucky fifth last year before claiming the Group 1 $500,000 Turnbull Stakes (2000m) at Flemington prior to running a close second to Shamus Award in the Cox Plate.
Beshara has given Happy Trails one trial in his preparation and expects him to repeat his efforts of the last two runnings of the Spring Stakes.
“He’s at about the same level this year as he was then and I’m expecting him to hit the line, Bashara told the Sportsman.
“It was a soft trial, more to get him fit and give him a run. He was desperate for it. We couldn’t have a jump out because it was too wet.”
Happy Trials will be having his first start since his narrow second in the Cox Plate and will follow the same program as he did last year.
After Saturday Beshara will concentrate on the Melbourne Spring Carnival with Happy Trails to line up in the Group 1 $400,000 Memsie Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield on August 30, the Group 1 $400,000 Hyland Race Colours Underwood Stakes (1800m) at Caulfield on September 20 and try for back to back wins in the Turnbull Stakes then onto the Cox Plate.
“I would say he’ll be ready by the Underwood,” Beshara said.
“He might not win the Memsie, but I expect him to be right up there.”
Adelaide jockey Troy Baker will ride Happy Trails in the Spring Stakes after partnering him when second in the 1000m barrier trial at Morphettville on August 1 but top Melbourne rider Dwayne Dunn will be back on board for the rest of the Spring.
Last year Dunn got the nod to ride Happy Trails when fourth in the Underwood Stakes and followed that up with a win in the Turnbull Stakes before being beaten a whisker by the three year old Shamus Award in the Cox Plate.
Happy Trails at $2.60, holds a slight advantage over the Ken Sweeney trained Riziz, at $2.80, in the market order for the Spring Stakes with Ladbrokes.com.au .
The next in betting is Karacatis at $4.80 just ahead of Daytona Grey at $7.50.
Riziz, with Claire Lindop to ride, has had a freshen up since running third to Lord Off The Sky in the Group 3 $135,000 Polytrack Sir John Monash Stakes (1100m) at Caulfield on July 5 while Karacatis from the Richard Jolly stable hasn’t started since running sixth to Smokin’ Joey in the Group 1 $500,000 The Tapestry Wines Goodwood (1200m) at Morphettville on May 10.
And in early Cox Plate betting Happy Trails is marked at $15 behind the equal favourites Carlton House from the Gai Waterhouse stable and top Kiwi mare Silent Achiever both listed at $13.