Jockey Michael Rodd is confident that Happy Trails can become the first horse since Vo Rogue in 1988 to win the Turnbull Stakes in back-to-back years when he contests the Group 1 event at Flemington on Saturday.
Rodd picked up the ride on Happy Trails at the start of the 2014 Spring Racing Carnival and he steered the Good Journey gelding to an eighth place finish in the Group 1 Memsie Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield on August 30 before the pair were narrowly denied victory by Glen Boss and Foreteller in the Group 1 Underwood Stakes (1800m) at Caulfield on September 20.
The leading Melbourne hoop said that he was thrilled with the performance of Happy Trails in the Underwood Stakes and he told AAP that the veteran gelding will be close to his peak for the Group 1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m) as he builds towards the Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) at Moonee Valley on October 25.
“His run in the Underwood was outstanding, it just shows that he’s pretty much on par with where he was last year,” Rodd said.
“He had a massive blow after that and Paul has always said his target is the Cox Plate, but obviously we’ll try to win what we can on the way through.
“He’s definitely one of the winning chances in the Turnbull.”
In 2013 Happy Trails follow the exact path to the Turnbull Stakes as he did during his current spring campaign and he scored a narrow win over Puissance De Lune in the $500,000 event before he finished a close second to Shamus Award in the Cox Plate.
Happy Trails will need to perform at his best to join Trenton (1885 and 1886), Gladsome (1904 and 1905), Tangalooma (1921 and 1922), Viol D’Amour (1931 and 1932), Comic Court (1949 and 1950) and Vo Rogue (1987 and 1988) as the only horses that have won the Turnbull Stakes in back-to-back years after a number of talented gallopers were included in the nominations for the Group 1 event this afternoon.
The likes of Royal Descent, Sacred Falls and Spillway are unlikely to take their place in the Turnbull Stakes field, but Happy Trails is still set to face Melbourne Cup winner Green Moon, Gai Waterhouse-trained The Offer, four-time Group 1 winner Silent Achiever, consistent grey Puissance De Lune and imported galloper Stipulate at Flemington on Saturday.