Headline jockey Damien Oliver will be back in action at Flemington this Saturday and will partner Australian Cup favourite Happy Trails.
Oliver missed the winning ride on the Gai Waterhouse trained Wandjina in the Group 1 $500,000 Australian Guineas (1600m) at Flemington last Saturday because of a careless riding suspension and is keen to get back into the Group 1 action this weekend.
Hong Kong based Brett Prebble stood in for Oliver on Wandjina and rode a well-judged race to lead all of the way to hold off the fast finishing Alpine Eagle and Stratum Star.
“I won’t deny it was painful but hopefully we can make amends this weekend,” Oliver told racing.com.
“It was good to see the horse win and he deserved to win a big race and I played a big part in his preparation getting him there for the race unfortunately I just couldn’t be there for the day.”
Oliver has an outstanding chance to make it back to back wins in the Group 1 $1m Australian Cup (2000m) after taking out last year’s version on Fiorente for Waterhouse.
Happy Trails has had two runs back this preparation for a sixth to Dissident in the Group 1 $400,000 Sportingbet C.F. Orr Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield on February 14 followed by a second to Mourinho in the Group 2 $200,000 Crown Golden Ale Peter Young Stakes (1800m) at Caulfield on February 28.
The seven year old returns to Flemington on Saturday where he recorded all of his three Group 1 victories including the $1m Longines Mackinnon Stakes (2000m) during the 2014 Melbourne Spring Carnival.
“We’re hoping that he can come through for us on Saturday,” Oliver said.
“All three of his Group 1 wins have come at Flemington, he’s a track specialist.
“He’s had a faultless preparation, two lead up runs and he gets back to the track that he loves the most.”
Happy Trails’ other Group 1 wins were the 2012 $1m Emirates Stakes (1600m) and the 2013 $500,000 Turnbull Stakes (2000m).
Oliver has missed out on a ride in the other Group 1 on the card, the $1m Lexus Newmarket Handicap (1200m), but is still looking forward to watching a top quality field of sprinters attempting to set a new race and possibly track record.
“The track record could be a chance of being run down at Flemington,’’ Oliver said.
Speedsters Lord Of The Sky and Driefontein are certain to make sure there is plenty of speed on in the early stages which will set it up for the back makers Lankan Rupee, Terravista, Chautauqua and the three year old Brazen Beau.
Happy Trails heads the market order for the Australian Cup at Ladbrokes.com.au at $4.80 just ahead of 2014 Melbourne Cup winner Protectionist at $5.50, Peter Young Stakes winner Mourinho at $9, Spillway at $10, the Chris Waller trained Forteller at $11 and the widely travelled Red Cadeaux at $12.