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Trainer Paul Beshara has Happy Trails primed for Cox Plate glory

Posted by on 29/06/2018

Calm before the storm: Trainer Paul Beshara with Happy Trails. Photo: Jason South Calm before the storm: Trainer Paul Beshara with Happy Trails. Photo: Jason South

Calm before the storm: Trainer Paul Beshara with Happy Trails. Photo: Jason South

Calm before the storm: Trainer Paul Beshara with Happy Trails. Photo: Jason South

On the morning of the race, Happy Trails will have his breakfast in darkness, plunging his pretty face into a grainy bucket of lucerne, chaff, oats and corn.

His big nostrils will blow like a set of leathery bellows as he gulps down water and readies himself for a light workout at 4:15am. The run will be just enough to wake him up and loosen him up – to make him feel good before he competes in the weight-for-age championship of Australia, the contest many call the best race on the calendar, the Cox Plate.

Next, the gelding will head back to his stable at Caulfield – his home away from home during the spring racing carnival – for a shampoo and a rinse. His trainer Paul Beshara will be there to towel him down and walk him dry, to brush his chestnut coat, 12 hours before the big race at 5:40pm.

Some horses like sugar cubes or Minties or apples for treats; some drink beer, and others slurp tea. Happy Trails – nicknamed “Roy” – enjoys his carrots. Roy will crunch on a bag full and lounge is his box until 2pm, when the brown-eyed chestnut boards a float bound for Moonee Valley – and maybe greatness.

This is an ideal preparation for horse and trainer, a calm routine that belies the controversy and drama that befell the pair at this time last year. It is hard to tell which narrative the South Australian duo best embodies. Rags to riches? Redemption? A bit of both?

Mere days before this race in 2013, Beshara was disqualified for six months for illegally treating the horse on the day of a previous race. He sat watching in Crown Casino as Roy lunged to the line, coming second in a photo finish. Worse, the horse kicked himself in the pastern, and needed six months off.

And now they are back. They drove down here from Adelaide in August. Roy is sociable and needed another horse on the float. Beshara, too.

“I sit in the back with him,” he says. “I’ll have a sleep, and he’ll put his face down near me while I’m sleeping. He’ll travel anywhere then.”

Beshara is determined not to live in the past, focusing instead on what he can control. Routine is everything. Gun horse Lucia Valentina posed with models last week. Beshara won’t have any such pageantry or surprises.

Walking Roy between the stables one afternoon this week, an earth mover rumbles past and the horse rears up and whinnies.

“Ah! Ah! Ah! You’re such a naughty boy – such a naughty boy!” he says, holding tight to the reigns. “He’s just feeling’ good.”

If anyone other than Beshara – or strapper Chelsea Moss – was leading Roy, he could get “savage”. Their trust has been earned over a lifetime.

Beshara bought Roy as a yearling. No one else wanted him. The vendor’s bid opened at $10,000, so Beshara bid $1000 more.

The $11,000 investment has now won $2.2 million in prize money – a cool $4 million if he wins on Saturday afternoon. The bookies have him at 10-1.

“I think he should be shorter. The conditions will suit him. He likes it dry – doesn’t like wet tracks,” he says. “He’s glowing, isn’t he?”

You want a horse who can mix it with the best? Roy has beaten both Green Moon and Fiorente at their best.

You want a horse who can win the big ones? He has won both the Emirates and the Turnbull.

You want a horse who is honest, who will give himself a chance? Happy Trails has placed in half of all his races.

“He’s a very courageous horse,” Beshara says. “But his strength is a brilliant burst of speed at the end. His last 400 is very, very fast.”

He has the heart, and he has a weapon, and he will need both. On Saturday he will be ridden off the pace, worse than midfield, leaving probably seven horses to catch.

“It’s a pressure-cooker race,” Beshara says. “They’ll go out and they’ll run hard for 2040 metres. Only the horses that can handle that will win.”

Roy has the temperament, too. Thirty minutes before the race he will saddle up, then hit the parade ring where champion hoop Damien Oliver will get a leg up.

“He’ll relax. He knows why he’s there,” Beshara says. “He’ll be ready. Then he’ll go out to race. Then he’ll win.”

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This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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