Paul Beshara didn’t even need to talk to jockey Dwayne Dunn after the Emirates Stakes to know that Happy Trails had run his last race.
As he had done at each of 64 previous starts, Beshara closely monitored the performance of the gelding he affectionately calls Roy and, for the first time, knew his days as a racehorse were done.
The nine-year-old beat home just two rivals in his 35th Group 1 appearance and while that was an improvement on the Cox Plate run, when he finished last, it was a more telling performance according to Beshara.
“His run was very creditable in the Turnbull, he ran a beautiful fifth and ran home nice and strong and looked like the old Roy, and in the Cox Plate I didn’t take much notice because he just won’t run on wet tracks,” Beshara said on Sunday morning.
“But yesterday, the Happy Trails of old would have stormed home down the outside and come a lot faster than he did. But he just couldn’t go.
“He’s nine years of age now, he doesn’t have to prove anything. He’s been a great champion.”
As evidenced by his record. Among his seven career wins, three were at Group 1 level, while he also finished second on 10 occasions – including the 2013 Cox Plate – and third seven times, which helped the son of Good Journey amass $3,292,650 in stakes.
Not bad for an $11,000 purchase at the Adelaide Magic Millions Yearling Sale from the draft of Mill Park Stud.
All of Happy Trails’ Group 1 wins were at Flemington, including the Cantala Stakes (1600m), when it was known as the Emirates Stakes and run on the final day of the Cup Carnival, and the race that was his final racetrack appearance, when it was known as the Mackinnon Stakes and run on opening day.
Beshara’s favourite, though, was his 2013 Turnbull Stakes (2000m) win over Puissance de Lune and subsequent Caulfield Cup winner Fawkner.
“His three Group 1 were all great, but I think when he won the Turnbull (was my favourite),” he said.
“Puissance de Lune was apparently the best horse in Australia, he was going to win the Melbourne Cup and was going to be the champion of the world and everything, and then Roy just went straight past him.
“That was great.”
Even though now lost to the racetrack, Happy Trails will get to exercise his competitive nature in retirement, with a career in the show ring beckoning.
He will spend his post-racing days in the care of his devoted strapper Chelsea Moss.
“Chelsea’s into show work, so he’ll do a bit of showjumping, dressage and eventing, whatever she want to do with him,” Beshara said.
“You wouldn’t get a better person to look after him than Chelsea. She’ll give him all the love he needs.
“That’s good because he’s been a mate, a really good mate of mine. It’s very hard (to say goodbye).”