Game On – On Saturday
15 Aug 2019
Melody Belle (5 m Commands – Meleka Belle, by Iffraaj) is set to defend her title in the weight-for-age $100,000 U S Navy Flag Foxbridge Plate (Gr. 2, 1200m) on Saturday at Te Rapa.
The former Champion Two-Year-Old provided Jamie Richards with his first stakes’ win as sole Te Akau trainer last season, after an inch-perfect ride saw her nail race favourite Julius (Swiss Ace) on the line.
Richards also saddles Coupland’s Bakeries Mile (Gr. 2, 1600m) winner Te Akau Shark(5 g Rip Van Winkle – Bak da Chief, by Chief Bearhart).
In preparation, the pair trialled twice in July at Te Rapa, with Te Akau Shark coming from off the pace to win his two heats, while Melody Belle rounded off strongly for a third, before finishing camped on the leaders in fifth.
Neither has fared well at the barrier, with Melody Belle, to be ridden by Michael McNab, drawing the outside of 12 runners and Te Akau Shark, ridden by Opie Bosson, barrier 11.
“I’m happy with both of them,” Richards said. “Melody Belle, I thought she might have trialled a little bit better, although she got caught down in the worst of the ground. But, that will bring her on and she is back in blinkers on Saturday.
“They haven’t made it easy for us given the draws, so they’ve got a job in front of them. That makes it tricky. Endless Drama is going to get the gun run and could be very hard to beat, because he looked super at the trials.”
Richards had no immediate thoughts as to how each would be ridden, preferring to wait and see how the track plays, but with his pattern of getting home from off the pace, Te Akau Shark would likely be given time to settle, while Melody Belle could seek a midfield position.
“Te Akau Shark probably trialled better than Melody Belle and heads into the race in really good order, but in saying that, it’s hard for a horse that hasn’t won a Group One to try and beat a horse that has won six. So it’s going to be a hell of benchmark for him, but both horses are going well.”
Melody Belle won the Foxbridge last year on Slow9 footing and could strike similar going this time, with the track currently rated Heavy10 and little rain forecast until 3mls predicted Saturday afternoon.
The early TAB fixed odds market showed Te Akau Shark ($2.20), Melody Belle ($3.80), Helena Baby ($4.60), and Endless Drama ($6.50), as the first four in favouritism.
Following the trials on Tuesday at Avondale, Richards also reported on the performances and plans for high-class fillies Avantage (Fastnet Rock) and Probabeel (Savabeel).
“Neither of them could get going in the heavy ground, but they were still okay for what we wanted from them and a majority of our horses all trialled well,” he said.
“Probabeel is a very laidback filly, so hard to get a line on, but really happy with how she looked at the stables this morning (Wednesday). She would more than likely head straight to Sydney, to get a bit of warmth on her back and hopefully get onto some better tracks over there.”
Richards suggested the Furious Stakes (Gr. 2, 1200m), for three-year-old fillies, on 7 September at Randwick, could be her starting point, while Avantage is earmarked for the Open 1200 metres on 31 August at Ruakaka.
Another to trial, NZ Derby (Gr. 1, 2400m) runner-up In A Twinkling (Fastnet Rock) had his second outing this time in. “He travelled really well to the corner, but Troy (Harris) said he floundered in the ground a little bit,” Richards said. “He’s a really hard horse to place, because he’s only won one race but got a rating of 86. So, for a 65 horse he’s now got to go up and race with quite a bit of weight in the Rating 82 grade.”
Richards said In A Twinkling could resume in the Rating 82 1400 metres on 31 August at Ruakaka.
Once again, after winning two of the three two-year-old heats on 6 August at Ruakaka, Richards stepped out three first timers that trialled very well to all win their heats.
“Image of You (Pins), I think has a lot of upside,” Richards said. “She’s a big scopey filly that will only continue to improve. She was very green and doesn’t really know what she’s doing yet, but she can have a little more time and develop into a really nice Christmas and Karaka Million filly.
“The Written Tycoon colt, Press Baron, has been very professional since day one and always looked like a precocious horse. He’s certainly on a Karaka Million path, and now spelling for a couple of weeks.
“And the other bloke, The Panther (Iffraaj), he’s going well. He’s not bred to be an early two-year-old but he’s always shown plenty of upside. He’s a good quality type of horse, medium sized, professional, and overall we’re really happy with the two-year-olds and how they’re going. Hopefully we can have another good year with them, again.”