Champion jockey Damien Oliver won momentary respite from the greatest crisis of his career and provided trainer Paul Beshara with the thrill of his life with the victory of Happy Trails in the Emirates Stakes at Flemington.
Oliver shook of his troubles to produce a classic ride to land Happy Trails ($13) by a short half-head and collect a Group One victory that may yet attain even greater significance.
With an investigation into alleged improper betting threatening his career, Oliver has been under tremendous pressure this spring, having lost the ride on Melbourne Cup winner Green Moon, among others.
But the eight-time premier jockey has put the controversy aside to ride three Group One winners over the Melbourne spring carnival.
“I’m just grateful to get these rides,” Oliver said.
For Beshara, the win was reward for his faith in both horse and jockey.
Happy Trails had been one of the form horses of the spring before an unfortunate run in the Cox Plate when he finished 10th behind Ocean Park.
“It wasn’t fair in the Cox Plate,” Beshara said.
“More Joyous laid all over him the whole way and he never got any rhythm going.
“Damien was able to ride him properly today and you can see what he’s capable of.
“I’m glad he could win for Damien. He’s done a great job for me, always available to ride the horse in his work and help me out whenever I needed him.”
Happy Trails landed a string of big bets, including one of $300,000 to $20,000 with his last gasp defeat of the favourite Fawkner ($4.80).
Secret Admirer ($14) finished a short head further back in third place.
The win ended a campaign for Happy Trails that began with a Group Three success in Adelaide, featured a Group Two win at Moonee Valley and finally produced a top-level success.
It also prompted Beshara to declare him the best “miler” in Australia, an opinion that he hopes to confirm in the Doncaster Mile in Sydney in the autumn.