THREE-TIME Group 1 winner Happy Trails and exciting talent Alpine Eagle will clash for the first time in Saturday’s $500,000 Group 1 Makybe Diva Stakes in Melbourne.
The South Australian pair are progressing towards the $3 million Cox Plate at Moonee Valley on October 24 and are among 22 nominations for the 1600m Flemington feature.
Alpine Eagle makes his Melbourne return for the first time since finishing runner-up in the Australian Guineas back in February. He ran a slashing first-up second in the Spring Stakes at Morphettville on August 22.
Trainer Tony McEvoy has booked Mark Zahra for Alpine Eagle after Damien Oliver opted to ride 2013 Caulfield Cup winner, the Lloyd Williams-owned Fawkner, throughout the Melbourne Spring Carnival.
Zahra rode Alpine Eagle for the first time in a track gallop on Saturday and the horse has pleased McEvoy since his first-up run.
Likewise Morphettville trainer Paul Beshara said Happy Trails had come through his luckless outing in the Group 1 Memsie Stakes at Caulfield 10 days ago in good order.
The horse had no luck from a tricky barrier when 12th behind Boban and Beshara said he was looking forward to seeing Happy Trails back at the track that had netted his three Group 1 victories.
“The horse is well,’’ Beshara said.
“He’ll have a gallop here in the morning (Tuesday) and I can’t wait for him to get back to Flemington.
“Bossy (Glen Boss, jockey) said the horse would have finished a lot closer if a run had come the other day but he didn’t want to knock him around.’’
Alpine Eagle was installed an $8 chance in the race and Happy Trails at $11 with Memsie Stakes winner Boban a clear-cut $4.40 favourite with tab.com.au.
Beshara said stablemate Richie’s Vibe pleased jockey Craig Newitt at his first Melbourne run this campaign and said the horse would have another crack at 1400m after he finished his race off smartly at Caulfield.
“Craig said another stride and he runs second the other day,’’ Beshara said.
“He thinks the horse is really looking for the 1400m, so now so he’ll run in The Sofitel (1400m) on Saturday.’’