Adelaide visitor Happy Trails (Good Journey) will remain in Melbourne to prepare for the Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) after he guaranteed himself a run in the event with his victory in the $300,000 Group 2 Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes (1600m) at Moonee Valley.
Happy Trails also earned himself a Caulfield Cup ballot exemption with his success in Saturday’s weight-for-age feature but Morphettville trainer Paul Beshara declared the Cox Plate was the gelding’s main spring goal.
“He’ll definitely go to the Cox Plate. That was his ticket in,” Beshara said. “He’ll stay on here now. I’m just so rapt, absolutely speechless.”
Happy Trails has competed in strong company for most of his career but struggled to turn promise into victories but the five-year-old’s performances have shown an added dimension of maturity since he won the Group 3 Spring Stakes (1200m) when resuming at Morphettville.
The new-found maturity has resulted in a reversal of Happy Trails’s racing style. The chestnut once settled at the back of the field before charging home late but top jockey Glen Boss has been keen to ride him forward on the two occasions the pair has combined.
Boss sent Happy Trails to settle fourth behind the leaders Saptapadi and Midas Touch before pushing his mount forward at the 600 metres. Happy Trails found a two-length margin rounding the home turn before surviving a late lunge from Green Moon (Montjeu) to score narrowly.
“This is unbelievable, a dream come true,” Beshara said. “Everybody wants to be on a happy trail but we’re on one.
“He’s always been there; he’s always showed us 150 percent every time he goes out. We owe him more than he owes us and today, it’s a great thing.”
Happy Trails defeated Green Moon by a nose with another 1-1/2 lengths back to Rekindled Interest (Redoute’s Choice) in third. Happy Trails started at $5.50 on track but paid $5.20 on the Victorian TAB. The field covered the 1600 metres in 1:35.56, which included a last 600-metre sectional of 35.05 seconds on a good (3) surface. Happy Trails’s time was .78 of a second outside the track record.
Happy Trails’s win failed to convince Boss of his Cox Plate capabilities but the jockey said the developing galloper had the scope to win at least one Group 1 race during the spring.
“I’m not sure he can win a Cox Plate this horse,” Boss said. “Obviously, he is doing a lot better this preparation than what he has in previous preparations.
“He probably ran into a horse that was in need of a run, Green Moon. He had me cold and probably died on his run so I more think the Emirates (Stakes) at the end of the carnival would be a race he could win but it costs you nothing to dream.”
Happy Trails’s win was his fourth in 26 starts while the $180,000 winner’s cheque to his prizemoney to more than $580,000 for his owners - Mrs E Dickmann, Mr P Dickmann, Mr J P Dickmann, Mrs K H Dickmann.