Melody Belle Aims to Join Doncaster Elite
2 Apr 2020
NZ Racing News reports:
Matamata trainer Jamie Richards is confident his star mare Melody Belle is ready to run the race of her life in Saturday’s Gr.1 Doncaster Mile (1600m), with the ten-time Group One winner set to carry the top-weight of 57kgs in one of Australia’s most iconic handicaps.
And why wouldn’t he be?
In the last two years, each-way punters have come to rely on the champion mare, who in that time has finished out of the placings just twice from 16 starts.
One a too bad to be true 16th behind Enzo’s Lad in the Gr.1 Telegraph Handicap (1200m) at the beginning of 2019.
The other a resuming fourth placing behind Endless Drama in the Gr.2 Foxbridge Plate (1200m) in August 2019, a campaign in which she would ultimately go on to win four Group Ones in succession before a luckless second placing in the Gr.1 Mackinnon Stakes (2000m) behind world class mare Magic Wand.
The form guide this preparation again makes compelling reading, resuming with a solid third behind Streets Of Avalon and Super Seth on a leaders’ biased track at Caulfield in the Gr.1 Futurity Stakes (1400m).
She again ran with credit when third to Regal Power the A$5 million All-Star Mile (1600m) when restricted for room for much of the home straight.
Richards believes the mare, now based in Sydney, is reasonably well-placed despite the top-weight impost.
“She travelled up in good order and Dad (travelling foreman Paul Richards) has been happy with her all the way through,” Richards said.
“She has done a fair bit of travelling in her career and we have been happy with how she has settled in to Sydney.
“She had been building up her work a bit towards the end of last week and she worked nicely on Saturday and again on Tuesday. We think she is close enough to where she needs to be.”
Richards felt that despite being held up for a run in the All-Star Mile, the mare raced a little one-paced.
“We shortened up her work a little bit to keep her sharp,” he said. “She won’t do a lot for the rest of the week. She went off to the beach this morning for a bit of a paddle with Probabeel but we have brought her work back a bit to keep her on the fresher side.
“There’s a chance we are going to back up on the last day (of The Championships) as well.”
Melody Belle has drawn barrier 14, but will likely jump from 11 in the capacity 20-horse field should the emergencies not gain a start and Richards remained open-minded in regards to tactics, with stable jockey Opie Bosson to ride.
“I would love to try and get her one-off the fence but if she is three-deep with a bit of cover it is probably not the end of the world,” Richards said.
“We will just wait on some speed maps and have a look at that later in the week.
“Now that she is a little bit older I thinks she needs a bit of time to build into her races rather than sitting and sprinting. I’m not overly concerned about the barrier, I think it gives Opie options and it is a big field.”
Melody Belle will have to replicate the deeds of some great mares over the past twenty years if she is to win the Doncaster, with the likes of Winx (56.5kgs, 2016), More Joyous (57kgs, 2012) and Sunline (58kgs, 2002) all carrying significant weight to prevail in the race.
“She does have to give weight to the three-year-olds and there are some nice horses like Brandenburg and Super Seth,” Richards said.
“But, for a 10-time Group One winner I don’t think she is too badly in with her sex allowance either. She is going well and I think realistically she is a good each-way chance again.”
Given the uncertain times and the fact Melody Belle had performed well on the back-up previously, she is likely to be seen back at Randwick on April 11 in either the Gr.1 Coolmore Legacy Stakes (1600m) or Gr.1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) and Richards was leaning towards the latter.
Stablemate Probabeel is set to contest next week’s Gr.1 Australian Oaks (2400m) after another strong showing when second in the Gr.1 Vinery Stud Stakes (2000m) behind Shout The Bar.
“Probabeel goes to the Oaks,” Richards said. “We have been pleased with her and I think going up to the mile and a half is no problem for her, especially up against her own age and sex. We are going to give her a little bit of work at the end of the week and see how she goes but all signs at this stage are very encouraging.”
Meanwhile, Richards is taking a positive approach to life in lockdown under Covid-19 restrictions in New Zealand.
“I’m catching up on some sleep which has been good and getting a few jobs done around the house,” he said. “I’m trying to keep busy. For someone that is not very good at staying still it is a bit difficult.
“You are always kept very busy mentally as well with the horses and there are only three in Australia to worry about so we are enjoying a bit of a rest and doing our best to do our bit and get out the other side of it.”