Group 1 for Belle & Jamie
1 Sep 2018
A fresh-up winner in the Foxbridge Plate (Gr. 2, 1200m), Melody Belle (4 m Commands – Meleka Belle, by Iffraaj) made the necessary improvement to deliver in the $200,000 Tarzino Trophy (Gr. 1, 1400m) on 1 September at Hastings.
Trainer Jamie Richards had said the work by Melody Belle “wasn’t that flash” in the days leading up to the Foxbridge, but confidence had grown in the Champion Two-Year-Old since and he reported her to have worked very well over the past week.
Against a Group One field regarded as the best assembled in recent times, Melody Belle went forward from barrier seven to situate outside the leader before gaining cover in fourth at the 1000 metres. Having travelled sweetly, she was into the clear on straightening, led 150m out, and quickened under the urgings of Shafiq to win narrowly but well.
Race favourite Melody Belle won by half a length, from second favourite Hi Flyer (Tavistock), with a long neck to long-shot stable-mate Our Abbadean (Lookin At Lucky) in third. On Slow7 footing, Melody Belle ran the 1400 metres in 1:24.5 and paid $4.10 & $2.00 on the NZ TAB tote.
“It was a terrific win and a terrific ride,” Richards said. “Shafiq came down with a big rap from Mark (Walker) and you’ve got to thank Dave (Ellis) and Mark for giving him the opportunity and he’s really stepped up.
“We were really pleased with how Melody Belle came through the first up win. She loves being out in the paddock when she can which helps her eat, and a big thank you to the whole staff. I’m only the name in the book. I can’t do it all and I’m very grateful to the team.”
Richards said a decision regarding a return in three weeks to Hastings, for the Windsor Park Plate (Gr. 1, 1600m), would require discussion.
“We’ll sit down and have a talk to John (Galvin),” Richards said. “We’ve never tried her at a mile, but she’s a year older now and it might be worth giving her a crack.”
Regarding the third placed finish of Our Abbadean, Richards said: “She’s a very handy staying mare that’s coming up well. It’s very hard to judge her off her trials, but once she gets the blinkers on race day, she’d really improved out of Taupo (trials) and I was very pleased with the way that Rosie (Myers) rode her.
“Also, a big thanks to Dave (Ellis). It’s a big thrill to be in this role and I couldn’t do it without the team around me.”
Claiming her second Group One victory, having won the Sires’ Produce Stakes (Gr. 1, 1400m), Karaka Million (Listed, 1200m), Sires’ Produce Stakes (Gr. 2, 1400m) at Eagle Farm, and Mongolian Khan Trophy (Gr. 3, 1200m), Melody Belle recorded her seventh win from 14 starts, taking her earnings to $1,111,406 for the Fortuna Melody Belle Syndicate (Mgr: John Galvin).
Te Akau principal David Ellis purchased the stellar filly for $57,500 at the 2016 New Zealand Bloodstock Premier Yearling Sale, from the draft of Haunui Farm, and to have now ticked over $1 million in prize money makes her a very valuable commodity.
“She’s a filly that’s worth well over one-million dollars, for breeding,” Ellis said. “We’ve got the half-sister, Exaltation, by Not A Single Doubt, that we bought at the sales this year. She broke in beautifully and just returned to the stables yesterday after a couple of weeks spelling here at Te Akau Stud. She’s a lovely filly that everyone likes.
“It was a very emotional win for a number of reasons,” he said. “John Galvin, to win another Group One for his great team was a big thrill, but to see any young man (trainer Jamie Richards) win his first Group One race in his own right is an enormous achievement and it’s just great to see a young guy with so much talent, that’s working so hard and doing his absolute best, get the results on race day.
“It was a beautiful ride by Suppy, as was his ride earlier in the day on Te Akau Shark, and if there’s a better rider at the moment in New Zealand then I haven’t seen them. He’s the most wonderfully balanced rider, beautiful set of hands, strong in a finish, the complete package and it’s just fantastic.
“Opie (Bosson) sent me a text on Thursday, saying: “I’ve just ridden Melody Belle (in training) and she just wins on Saturday”, and what freak judge he is. He doesn’t say it very often, but when he does he’s always on the mark. He said the same for Te Akau Shark, and Melody Belle, just unbelievable.”
Ellis was also thrilled for the Hawkins family at Wentwood Grange, when their valuable mare Our Abbadean produced a slashing fresh-up run for third.
“They are great breeders and run a really good business,” Ellis said. “We got them two Group Two wins through the autumn with Our Abbadean, in the Awapuni Gold Cup and Travis Stakes, and now to gain a Group One placing is special.”
“In the winter, at this time of year, it’s not much fun for the staff working with horses, but it’s the first day of spring today and everything starts to pick up. I’m just in awe of the team working at the stables in Matamata, and at the farm here, that have spelled the horses so well, trained them so well, ridden them, mucked out the boxes in the rain and wind and cold, and I’m just so thrilled for them all.
“But today is Jamie’s day and I’m just so thrilled for him, and very proud to have given him his first Group One, training on his own.”
Having won a raft of Group Ones, Melody Belle notched the first for Te Akau in a race formerly known as the Hawkes Bay Challenge Stakes.
“It’s the first time we’ve won the race,” Ellis said. “We got beaten a nose by Seachange, with Darci Brahma, so it was nice to win it and it’s a race that’s been won by some champion gallopers.
Fortuna Syndicate manager John Galvin said: “It’s fantastic to have come here and won this great race. If you look at the history, some great horses have won this race over the years.
“A huge thanks to our mare, Melody Belle. It’s not easy to win Group races at two, three, and four, so it’s a wonderful thrill. Congratulations to Marie Leicester, the breeder of this horse. Marie is from the Sarten family and her father started the ‘Belle’ family.
“A special thanks to David Ellis. We wanted a Karaka Million type filly and David bought her under budget, a fantastic selection, and to our trainer Jamie Richards, he has all the skills. Also a great thanks to our special jockey, Suppy (Shafiq). He’s ridden winners for us in New Zealand and Singapore, and he’s doing a great job. Last, but not least, I’d like to thank the 34 owners that have a share in Melody Belle. It’s fantastic, well done and congratulations.
Race sponsor, Russell Warwick, general manager at Westbury Stud, said: “Everyone has turned up for a great day. The club has produced a lovely track, turned the weather on for us, and fantastic for the first Group One race of the year, and we thank CEO Butch Castles and everyone for their efforts.
“This is our opportunity to give something back to racing and we’re indebted to the Hawkes Bay region and the relationships we’ve built here.
“A lot of work goes into this day, to coincide with the Cancer Society and Daffodil Day.
“Congratulations to Jamie Richards and his staff. I know how much goes into preparing horses for these sorts of races, and congratulations to all the connections of Melody Belle. It’s a race that’s been won by some champion horses, including Rough Habit, Sunline, Seachange, Xcellent, Tavistock, Ocean Park, and many others.”
Warwick also mentioned that the breeder of Melody Belle, Marie Leicester, would receive a free service to Tarzino (Tavistock). “She is very well known breeder, so Marie, well done,” he said.
Jamie Richards said: “It’s a big honour to win this race and receive the trophy. The facilities here (Hastings) are first-class and the track played really well.
“The racing industry at the moment is in a pretty critical time of change and without the support of sponsors like Westbury we wouldn’t be able to race.
“John Galvin and Fortuna Syndications are an incredibly important part of the Te Akau model, and having 15 – 20 horses with us, as sole trainer, in New Zealand and Singapore is a huge vote of confidence in us and we certainly don’t take the support for granted.
“Thanks to the staff at home, as we’ve had a few changes with some staff leaving and new ones joining us and it’s all goes extremely well. I’d like to thank them for all their hard work.”
Melody Belle was strapped by Teina Walters.
Walters said that Melody Belle was “pretty quiet” beforehand in the parade, but she ignited with her first step onto the track in her prelim and immediately appeared focussed on the job at hand.
Photo credit – www.raceimages.co.nz