Melody Belle has Legendary Sunline in her Sights

Date: 29 Jan 2021

Melody Belle has Legendary Sunline in her Sights


RaceForm reports:


Melody Belle will aim to equal Sunline's Group One record at Trentham on Saturday


New Zealand racing history awaits Melody Belle at the finish line of Saturday's Gr. 1 Harcourts Thorndon Mile at Trentham.

The two-time Horse of the Year heads to Wellington this weekend with 12 Group One victories to her name - one short of the all-time record for a New Zealand horse of 13, set by the legendary Sunline between 1998 and 2002.

The winner of eight of her last nine starts in New Zealand, all at the elite level, Melody Belle is the $1.40 favourite for Saturday's $200,000 feature.

The Thorndon Mile will be her first race since finishing third on a hit-and-run raid to Melbourne for the Gr. 1 Mackinnon Stakes at Flemington in early November, but the six-year-old daughter of Commands has pleased trainer Jamie Richards throughout her build-up.

Following a close second behind high-class stablemate Amarelinha in a trial at Matamata on January 12, Melody Belle galloped between races at Te Rapa on Wednesday of last week.

She capped her Thorndon Mile preparation with a stylish gallop at Matamata on Tuesday morning, running 1200 metres in 1:16.8 with the last 600 in 35.8 seconds.

“Everything's gone well with her,” Richards said. “She's had a good week since her exhibition gallop at Te Rapa. I thought she worked particularly nicely this morning. Opie (Bosson, jockey) was happy with how she felt, and he's really looking forward to riding her again on Saturday.

“She's going as well as we've ever had her, I think. She is sound and happy, and as she's got older, she's eaten better and continued to work well. She has lost a little of her spring, or sharpness, and looking for a bit further, hence why she's kicking off at a mile.”

Richards is unfazed by memories of Melody Belle's last visit to Trentham, where she was a beaten $2.50 favourite in the Gr. 1 Telegraph two years ago. In the worst performance of her glittering career, she beat only two of her 18 rivals and finished more than 11 lengths from the winner.

“I think that was just one of those things that can happen sometimes in racing,” Richards said. “I certainly hope there's no reason for any concerns around her going back to Trentham this weekend, and I've been very happy with everything she's shown us leading into the race.”

Safely through Saturday, Melody Belle may have the chance to take sole possession of New Zealand's all-time Group One record in the 2000-metre Herbie Dyke Stakes at Te Rapa on February 13.

“The Herbie Dyke will be the next target, and as long as everything goes to plan between now and then, we're really looking forward to getting her to Te Rapa in a couple of weeks,” Richards said.

Half a decade on from her purchase for $57,500 by Te Akau Racing principal David Ellis at Karaka in 2016, Melody Belle heads into Saturday's race as the winner of 17 of her 35 starts and more than $4 million in stakes - more than the rest of the Thorndon Mile field combined.

Richards will also saddle Te Akau Caliburn in Saturday's Gr. 3 NZ Campus of Innovation & Sport Wellington Cup. The six-year-old son of Camelot made up good late ground for a last-start sixth in the Gr. 3 City of Auckland Cup at Ellerslie on New Year's Day, finishing less than three lengths from the winner without a lot of luck.

“He's going well too,” Richards said. “He's just had a few little things going on, which has meant we haven't been able to get as much racing into him as we might have liked.

“But he's pleased us with the way he's worked, and he had a very good exhibition gallop at Te Rapa last week as well. He's heading into this weekend's race in good order.”

The 3200-metre distance of the Wellington Cup is uncharted territory for Te Akau Caliburn, who began his career in England with victories over 2000 metres and 2400 metres, along with a second placing over 2800 metres.

Since his arrival at Richards' Matamata stable, Te Akau Caliburn's performances include a win over 1550 metres and a placing in the 2600-metre Listed New Zealand St Leger.

“In terms of him seeing out the distance this weekend, the most important thing is that he's got to relax and do things properly in the running,” Richards said. “As long as he does that, I'm quite confident he'll run it out strongly and be a nice chance in the race.”


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