Happy Trails has produced a storming finish to claim the Turnbull Stakes in a performance his trainer Paul Beshara says will earn the horse the respect his record deserves.
The South Australian galloper, sent out a $26 chance, defeated a high-class field in the 2000m feature at Flemington on Saturday, bursting through late to run down favourite Puissance De Lune ($3.90) by a short neck with Caulfield Cup-bound Fawkner ($13) a head away third.
Behind the placings there were several eye-catching performances including Fiorente who charged home from back in the field, and Hawkspur who had a checkered passage in the straight to finish a luckless fifth.
Happy Trails claimed his second group one after winning last year's Emirates Stakes and Beshara said the gelding would progress to the Cox Plate.
"He's a magnificent horse. Now he'll get the recognition he deserves," Beshara said.
"We've been all over Australia with him. He's by Good Journey and he's put us on a good journey. We love him."
Happy Trails was a race-day scratching from the Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes last month following a stable inspection by the compliance assurance team on race morning.
Beshara will front the Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board in Melbourne on Friday to answer a charge of allegedly treating the horse by way of injection on raceday.
Beshara has denied the horse was treated on raceday.
After being withdrawn from the Dato Stakes, Beshara was forced to run him in the Underwood Stakes. "That setback got me to win this," Beshara said.
"Maybe I should thank Mr Bailey [chief steward Terry Bailey] for putting me in the Underwood."
Puissance De Lune had to settle for second in a group one for the second time this campaign and has been displaced as favourite for the Melbourne Cup by Fiorente.
Puissance De Lune enjoyed a good run in the race and hit the front early in the straight.
Jockey Glen Boss said the import had his chance but felt the firming track and believes he'll let down even better at Moonee Valley in the Cox Plate.
"This track is getting firmer and firmer. It just doesn't suit him," Boss said.
"Moonee Valley, that's where he will explode."
Fawkner heads to the Caulfield Cup and part-owner Nick Williams says he'll take plenty of beating.
"I thought it was a great Caulfield Cup trial," Williams said.
Fiorente was forced to come from near the tail of the field but powered to the post with jockey Nash Rawiller describing his last 300m as "phenomenal".
Fiorente is favourite for the Melbourne Cup on the back of his Turnbull Stakes performance just ahead of Puissance De Lune and Hawkspur who are equal second favourites. "He's right on track," Rawiller said, looking ahead to the Cox Plate and Melbourne Cup.
Caulfield Cup (2400m), October 19: $5 Hawkspur, $7 Royal Descent, $10 Silent Achiever, $11 Dandino, $13 Super Cool, $15 Dear Demi, $21 Fawkner, Green Moon, Jet Away, Masked Marvel, Seville.
Cox Plate (2040m), October 26: $2.90 Atlantic Jewel, $4.20 It's A Dundeel, $5 Fiorente, $7 Puissance De Lune, $13 Guelph (doubtful), $18 Happy Trails, $21 Dear Demi, Green Moon, Hawkspur.
Melbourne Cup (3200m), November 5: $6 Fiorente, $7 Hawkspur, Puissance De Lune; $11 Mount Athos, $17 Green Moon, $18 Verema, Voleuse De Coeurs; $19 Royal Descent, $23 Dandino, Fawkner, Sea Moon, Seville, Tres Blue.