Melody Belle Sets All-Time Group 1 Record
14 Mar 2021
A crackerjack, a Champion, Melody Belle (6 m Commands – Meleka Belle, by Iffraaj) reached rarefied air when recording her 14thGroup One victory with a blistering performance in the weight-for-age $200,000 Bonecrusher NZ Stakes (Gr. 1, 2000m) on Auckland Cup Day (13 March) at Ellerslie.
People love saying, “I was there…” and when Melody Belle surpassed Sunline (Desert Sun), ‘The mare of the world’, as winner of the most Group One races by a horse trained in New Zealand, those that witnessed the feat will have a story to recount for a lifetime.
Bred by Marie Leicester, purchased by David Ellis CNZM for $57,500 at the 2016 New Zealand Bloodstock Premier Yearling Sale, from the draft of Haunui Farm, and owned by Fortuna Melody Belle Syndicate (Mgr: John Galvin), Melody Belle has won of 14 Group One races (19 from 38 in total) and $4.2 million prize money.
The reigning dual Horse of the Year in New Zealand, Melody Belle won her first start as a two-year-old in 2016 and, basically, never stopped. Crowned Champion Two-Year-Old after winning the Karaka Million 2YO (Restricted Listed, 1200m) and Sires’ Produce Stakes (Gr. 1, 1400m), she also won the Sires’ Produce Stakes (Gr. 2, 1400m) at Eagle Farm (Brisbane). She recorded five Group Ones as a four-year-old, four in a row as a five-year-old, including an historical feat in the Hawkes Bay Triple Crown, followed with the Empire Rose Stakes (Gr. 1, 1600m) at Flemington, and a further four this season.
Remarkably, she is unbeaten in seven Group Ones at Hastings, and matched the herculean Winx (Street Cry) – 25 Group One wins – when winning seven Group One races in a calendar year (2019), after Winx achieved the feat in 2018.
While Winx sits clearly atop as international Group One record-holder, Melody Belle is fifth equal, only one short of Black Caviar (Bel Esprit), who recorded 15 in an unbeaten career of 25 starts. Melody Belle is currently the highest ranked horse in Australasia (TRC Global Rankings), and, incredibly, all (19) other than her debut win has been in stakes’ races.
But back to the race that made it all happen…
Like father like son, Troy Harris, sat patiently at the rear aboard Melody Belle, a tactic made customary by his Hall of Fame father Noel Harris, and waited for the time to strike. Bumped wide on straightening, she wound up an enormous finish and simply sailed by over the final 100m to win going away by one and a quarter lengths.
Winning the Bonecrusher for the second time, having previously obliged in 2019, she defeated stable-mate and title defender Avantage (Fastnet Rock), while running the 2000 metres in 2:03.0 and last 600m in 33.8. Let go a touch in betting, she paid $3.00 & $1.20 on the TAB tote.
“She’s a champion and champions bounce back,” said trainer Jamie Richards, referring to somewhat of a shock defeat last time out in the Herbie Dyke Stakes (Gr. 1, 2000m), a month earlier, at Te Rapa.
“It wasn’t her fault at Te Rapa, and I’m really proud of the whole team. Nicole Shailer, who’s leading her, and Sam Bergerson at the Middle Barn, that look after her, everyone has done a great job.
“And John Galvin and his team at Fortuna Syndications are a massive part of it as well. It’s a fantastic win and I’m thrilled for Troy (Harris), too. He’s doing his best and a vital part of our team. He’s great at educating young horses and giving us feedback on the gallops, so really important and I can’t thank him enough.
“She is sound and happy and easy to train, and just loves going about her business. I’m really proud of her.”
In the week leading up, Richards had said: “She throws one-hundred percent into all of her work, cantering or galloping or whatever she’s doing. She’s a lovely, kind horse to have around the stable, but she wants to get on with things when the job’s on. She is always waiting at her feed bin for a scratch and pat first thing in the morning, same place every day, and is just a wonderful horse to have around.”
“Take nothing away from Avantage finishing second,” Richards added. “When Melody Belle isn’t around she’s top-shelf and she went down fighting. So, I’m really proud of both of them.”
John Galvin said: “A special mention to the Mitchell family who owned Bonecrusher, and to Frank Ritchie who trained, and Shaune Ritchie that strapped him. He was a great horse.
“Melody Belle has surpassed the record of another iconic New Zealand galloper Sunline, and noteworthy, to the McKee family that had so much to do with her and are represented here today.
“Thank you to David Ellis for buying her as a yearling. David, it’s been an incredible journey for myself, family, and all the owners in the Melody Belle syndicate, and now claimed the honour of winning the most Group One races in the history of New Zealand racing.
“Jamie Richards, what can I say, other than that I’ve spent a lifetime involved in New Zealand racing and I’ve never seen a training performance to match the dominance he’s achieving. He is honest, upfront, gifted, and genuine, and we’ve established a very good relationship.
“Also to Nicole Shailer, who is very emotional, as we are too, thank you very much, and to all the Te Akau staff that love this wonderful mare.
“To everyone here today, you have witnessed a bit of history.”
Leading the premiership with 125 wins, Melody Belle provided trainer Jamie Richards with his 12thGroup One win this season, among 34 stakes wins, and 43rdGroup One in total.
Melody Belle became the 267thblack type winner for Te Akau, 204 of those purchased by Ellis, while also having bought 62 of the 70 Group One winners.
Melody Belle was strapped by Nicole Shailer.
Photo credit – www.raceimages.co.nz