With retirement plans shelved for now, spring carnival stalwart Happy Trails returns to Flemington for the seventh consecutive year.
The winner of seven races and more than $3.2 million, the nine-year-old makes his reappearance in Saturday's Group One Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m).
Happy Trails hasn't raced since finishing fifth to Lucia Valentina in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick but has been given a steady build-up by Adelaide trainer Paul Beshara.
"He had six weeks in the paddock but was on the walker every day," Beshara said.
"It keeps him active and stops the arthritis that we get as we get older."
Beshara's biggest concern has been getting Happy Trails fit on the wet tracks in Adelaide.
The gelding has finished third in two trials at Gawler and Morphettville but Beshara is keen to see Happy Trails on top of the ground.
"It's been very bad here," Beshara said.
"He's had two trials so I'm looking forward to getting him on something dry so he can have a good sprint.
"We've done a lot of work on the synthetic track because the grass has been too heavy.
"He'll need this run. If we had some dry tracks where I could gallop him I could get him fitter, but I couldn't."
Where Happy Trails heads after Saturday will be determined by his first-up run.
Happy Trails holds a nomination for the Cox Plate, a race he has contested for the past four years with his best result a half head second to Shamus Award in 2013.
Whether he heads down that path or is aimed at the Emirates Stakes, a race he won in 2014 when known as the Mackinnon, will be decided by his performances.
"Sometimes it can be a bit greedy going to the Cox Plate and the Mackinnon," Beshara said.
"I think it will be one of the other."
Beshara said although retirement was on the table for Happy Trails at the end of his last campaign, he had thrived back in the stable.
"He's enjoyed his work," Beshara said. "He's not a paddock horse, he loves the stables and the attention."
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