With fellow nine-year-old The Cleaner being retired at the weekend, Paul Beshara’s Happy Trails has been left to fly the flag for the senior citizens of Australian racing.
The gelded son of Good Journey will go into battle on Saturday for the 64th time, taking his place in his fifth consecutive Cox Plate, a feat that emulated that of two-time winner Fields Of Omagh.
And when you consider the Cox Plate brings together some the best gallopers throughout the world, under weight for age conditions, it’s a monumental effort.
“He’s an absolute beauty,” Beshara told G1X.com.au.
“He’s not showing any signs of slowing down. He doesn’t like the paddock, this horse. He’s a competitor.
“He’s beaten the likes of Puissance De Lune, Fiorente, Fawkner, Green Moon and Criterion. They’re all retired and he’s still going.”
From the Perugino mare Madame Flurry, Happy Trails, or ‘Roy’, as he’s affectionately known, was knocked down to Beshara for just $11,000 at the 2009 Magic Millions Adelaide Yearling Sale.
He was second on debut in a 1000m Maiden at Murray Bridge in May, 2010, before notching his first win at his next start - a 2YO Handicap (1100m) at Morphettville - a month later.
Roy now boasts seven wins and 17 minor placings from his 63 starts, and a whopping $3.3 million in earnings, while, incredibly, he’s started in Group 1 company 33 times, winning on three occasions and placing on five.
At his first crack at the Cox Plate, in 2012, Happy Trails was 10th behind Ocean Park, beaten 6.5 lengths.
Twelve months later, he was narrowly touched off by three-year-old maiden Shamus Award, while in 2014, he ran sixth, beaten less than a length, in the race won by Adelaide.
And last year, Happy Trails was 10th behind Winx, beaten 13 lengths.
“Some of his best runs have been in the Cox Plate,” said Beshara. “He was super in 2013 and then again a year later. He was unlucky in 2014. He missed the start badly and then he ran into a few backsides as they were turning for home.”
Shamus Award wins the G1 2013 Cox Plate with Happy Trails charging into second.
Saturday’s renewal is being touted as a race in two - Winx and Hartnell.
That star pair dominate the betting, with defending champion Winx favourite at $2 (with Sportsbet) and the flying Hartnell a $3 chance.
Happy Trails in friendless in betting, currently a $101 chance.
Beshara, though, doesn’t subscribe to the theory that it’s a two-horse race.
“This is the racing game, anything can happen,” the trainer said.
“Black Caviar and Frankel are the only two that I know of that were unbeatable.
“He wouldn’t be there if I didn’t think he could win.”
Beshara will be at Moonee Valley on Tuesday for Breakfast With The Best, but his stable star will stay away from the bright lights, Happy Trails to instead tune up for the $3 million race at Sandown.