Richards Gears Up for Another Super Saturday

Date: 3 Oct 2020

Richards Gears Up for Another Super Saturday

New Zealand's outstanding racing publication Raceform reports -

With big-race contenders on both islands of New Zealand and both sides of the Tasman, Saturday looms as another special afternoon for Te Akau trainer Jamie Richards.

Two weeks ago, Richards kicked off the Hawke's Bay spring carnival with a winning treble, headed by the impressive Miss Aotearoa in the Gr. 3 Gold Trail Stakes. He also saddled star mare Avantage for a close third in the Gr. 1 Tarzino Trophy, while Probabeel scored a superb victory in the Gr. 3 Bill Ritchie Handicap in Sydney.

Last season's champion trainer returns to Hastings this Saturday with another strong arsenal that includes Avantage, Melody Belle and Prise De Fer in the Gr. 1 Windsor Park Plate, the undefeated Need I Say More in the Gr. 2 Dundeel at Arrowfield Hawke's Bay Guineas, and exciting mare Festivity in the Three Wise Birds 1200.

Meanwhile, Cornflower Blue heads into the Listed New Zealand Bloodstock Canterbury Belle Stakes at Riccarton on the back of a six-length maiden win, and Probabeel is preparing to fly the New Zealand flag in the Gr. 1 Epsom Handicap.

Richards is shooting for a remarkable fourth consecutive Windsor Park Plate victory, having saddled Gingernuts to win it in 2017 and Melody Belle in each of the last two years.

He expects an improved performance on Saturday from four-time Group One winner Avantage, who finished just under a length behind longshot winner Callsign Mav as the $1.80 favourite in the Tarzino Trophy.

“It was just a shame she missed the kick a little bit in the Tarzino,” Richards told RaceForm. “That possibly cost her a length or two in what ended up being a tight finish. If we can rectify that little issue, I think we'll be in good shape.”

It was well documented in the lead-up to the Tarzino that Avantage's final gallop on the Tuesday morning was not among the most impressive of her high-class career. She did significantly better this week, outperforming her superstar stablemate Melody Belle.

“I wasn't overly concerned about Avantage's gallop before the Tarzino,” Richards said. “You do have to make note of these things, but she's a four-time Group One winner who tends to know when it's raceday.

“But she certainly galloped very nicely this (Tuesday) morning, and she seems to be going into Saturday in good order.”

Melody Belle is a five-time Group One winner at this course, including an unprecedented clean sweep of the Tarzino Trophy, Windsor Park Plate and Livamol Classic last spring.

The daughter of Commands began her campaign in Sydney, but the Fortuna Melody Belle Syndicate changed tack and brought her home for the chance to watch her in the flesh amid the current Covid-19 travel restrictions.

Melody Belle won a trial at Rotorua last Tuesday, prompting connections to pay a late-nomination fee for Saturday's $200,000 weight-for-age feature.

“I thought she trialled nicely, and she's done a couple of gallops in company with Avantage,” Richards said. “Avantage had her covered this morning, but it's like with Avantage a couple of weeks ago - these mares can do that from time to time.

“I was happy enough with the way she galloped through the line, and we know how good she is. The only query I have with her is that I'm not entirely sure where she is fitness-wise after having that week to 10 days in the paddock when she got back from Sydney.”

Prise De Fer was Group One-placed over this distance in the Haunui Farm WFA Classic earlier in the year, and a fast-finishing third in the Foxbridge hinted at further big-race impact in the season ahead.

“He's in great shape,” Richards said. “The mile is certainly going to suit him. He had a nice exhibition gallop at Matamata last week and worked well this morning.”

Te Akau's number-one jockey Opie Bosson will ride Prise De Fer on Saturday, with the lower-weighted rides on Melody Belle and Avantage to be taken by Troy Harris and Danielle Johnson respectively.

Meanwhile, impressive three-year-old Need I Say More heads into the Dundeel at Arrowfield Hawke's Bay Guineas as a warm favourite to join Darci Brahma (2005) and Tell A Tale (2008) as Te Akau's third winner of the $100,000 feature.

The son of No Nay Never has won all of his three starts, including last season's Gr. 3 Waikato Stud Slipper and an emphatic first-up victory in the Gr. 3 Northland Breeders' Stakes at Te Rapa on September 5.

“He's done very well since that first-up win,” Richards said. “He's another one who had an exhibition gallop last week, just to keep him up to the mark for Saturday. He worked very nicely there and we're pleased with him.”

Festivity has been an impressive winner of both starts to date, most recently a sparkling two-length win on Wellington Cup day at Trentham in January. She will resume in the Three Wise Birds 1200, which also features stablemate Pinultimate.

“Festivity is a very promising mare who we've got a lot of time for,” Richards said. “Her work's been good, she's coming up nicely and we're looking forward to getting her back to the races.

“Pinultimate has trialled well. She's been off the scene for a little while, but she's going into the race in good shape. She'll improve with the run.

“We also have Te Akau Caliburn beginning a new campaign at either Hastings or Te Rapa. He's trialled nicely and is coming to hand well in is his first preparation as a gelding.”

Cornflower Blue will carry the colours of owner-breeder Waikato Stud in Saturday's Canterbury Belle Stakes. The Savabeel filly finished second on debut behind Need I Say More last season, then resumed with a dominant performance at Matamata on September 9.

“She worked nicely this morning and the team at Riccarton have been happy with her progress,” Richards said. “I flew down to Christchurch this afternoon to have a look at her, and she's looking fantastic.

“She's a really nice filly on the way through. I think she'll be worth following through the three-year-old season.”

Richards has also been pleased with Probabeel's build-up into Saturday's A$1 million Epsom Handicap - with one major exception.

“Everything had gone perfectly to plan until she drew gate 18 this morning,” he lamented. “She's come through her last run in great order and has done everything right, but she's going to need luck from that draw.”

Credit - Richard Edmunds


Sign up to our newsletter