Trainer Paul Beshara has confirmed that the 2016 Queen Elizabeth II Cup in Hong Kong next April is on the agenda for veteran gelding Happy Trails.
Happy Trails was sent to the spelling paddock after he finished eighth behind Gailo Chop in the Group 1 Mackinnon Stakes (2000m) at Flemington on October 31, but he has now returned from the paddock to begin preparations for his autumn campaign.
Beshara told Racing Ahead that Happy Trails will return to the races in the Group 1 Orr Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield on February 13 and he will press on to the Group 2 Peter Young Stakes (1800m) at the same venue on February 27 before he tackles the Group 1 Australian Cup (2000m) at Flemington on March 12.
Happy Trails has generally then headed to Sydney for races like the Group 1 Doncaster Mile (1600m) and Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m), but Beshara said that he will bypass those races and the likely wet tracks to give his star galloper a maiden opportunity in international racing in the Queen Elizabeth II Cup.
“He is going very well,” Beshara said.
“He came in last Tuesday from the paddock and he is enjoying it.
“We will go to the Australian Cup.
“First-up will be the Orr Stakes in Melbourne then he will go to the Peter Young and the Australian Cup, but then we have decided that we will go to Hong Kong because every time I have gone to Sydney there has just been a downpour there and he won’t run on wet tracks.
“We have had a lot of invitations from Hong Kong, Singapore and even Dubai and we have sort of been a bit hesitant in travelling with him, but this next year night be his swansong and he deserves to have a crack at it.”
Happy Trails has not recorded a race win since he took out the Mackinnon Stakes during the 2014 Spring Racing Carnival, but he performed well without winning in races like the Peter Young Stakes, Australian Cup, Group 1 Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m) and Group 1 Ladbrokes Caulfield Stakes (2000m) in 2015.
No Australian-trained horse has won the Queen Elizabeth II Cup, but Criterion finished a credible third behind Blazing Speed in the race earlier this year.
Happy Trails has recorded seven wins from his 57 race starts and has accumulated over $3 million in prizemoney for connections.