Happy Trails has returned to the “scene of the crime” in top shape as he defends his title in the $1 million Mackinnon Stakes.
The eight-year-old has not won a race since his victory in the 2000m Group One on Derby Day last year but trainer Paul Beshara predicts his run of bad luck will end on Saturday.
“All his runs, his preparation has been just bad luck, bad luck, bad luck.
“This whole campaign he’s had bad luck, but that will change here tomorrow,” Beshara said at Flemington on Friday.
Jockey Dwayne Dunn said the galloper had no luck on his last outing at Flemington and it was the same deal in the Cox Plate at Moonee Valley last Saturday when he finished 10th.
“He’s back to the scene of the crime,” Dunn said.
“I think he’s going as good as ever.”
Beshara also believes the horse is in top form.
“He’s better this year than he was last year.
“He’s just more healthy. He’s happier.”
After a 2040m Cox Plate in which Beshara said Happy Trails covered that much ground he practically ran a 3200m Melbourne Cup, the trainer has kept the gelding’s work this week to hand walks followed by trotting on the sand.
“He works himself. He basically tells you what he wants to do.
“He’s part of the family and we just let him go.”
Happy Trails has posted his trio of Group One wins in the 2012 Emirates Stakes, 2013 Turnbull Stakes and 2014 Mackinnon Stakes, all at Flemington, a track Beshara believes suits the horse’s style of racing.
“He likes the big track. He likes the long straight, it gives him plenty of time to wind up.”
Beshara had been eyeing a possible Melbourne Cup run for Happy Trails, but that was scrapped and replaced with the Mackinnon Stakes defence when the horse failed to finish in the top three of the Cox Plate.
“I’ll always consider it. He’ll go two miles, I’ve got no question there.
“It’s his style of racing. He just goes to sleep and wakes up in the last four hundred and away he goes.”
Rather than an autumn campaign in Sydney where he has failed on wet tracks in the past, Beshara is looking to take Happy Trails to Hong Kong instead for the Queen Elizabeth Cup in April.
Beshara has a simple instruction for Dunn on Saturday: “Win.”
Two Mackinnon Stakes in a row would be sensational, Beshara said.
“The only thing better than two wins in a row would be three wins in a row.”
Happy Trails’ task of going back to back in the Mackinnon has been made easier with the scratching of the early favourite Magic Hurricane.