Super Saturday – Win No.2 Melody Belle Marvellous
3 Oct 2020
Trained to the minute, reigning Horse of the Year Melody Belle (6 m Commands – Meleka Belle, by Iffraaj) recorded her third consecutive victory in the $200,000 Windsor Park Plate (Gr. 1, 1600m) on Saturday at Hastings.
An historical winner last season of the Hawkes Bay Triple Crown, Melody Belle joined Rough Habit (Roughcast) on 11 Group 1 victories, two behind the 13 won by Sunline (Desert Sun), and the first since Mr Tiz (Bletchingly) in the 1980s to win a Group 1 race three times in a row. She is now unbeaten in six starts at Hastings – all Group 1.
And it was no gimme for the Champion mare, in a field of seven individual Group 1 winners of 19 races, as she came back to the inside of four-time Group 1 winning stable-mate Avantage (Fastnet Rock) to snatch a victory by a nose.
Melody Belle had returned home after a solid effort in the Winx Stakes (Gr. 1, 1400m) on 22 August at Randwick, to give her 34 owners and plethora of fans, unable to watch her in person because of Covid in Australia, a chance to get amongst the action again on course.
Chasing a torrid pace (1:33.8 for 1600m) in fifth, Melody Belle was asked to go forward by rider Troy Harris inside the 600m, ranging four wide on straightening, and after being tackled and headed at the 150m by Avantage she had the audacity to fight back and win.
Troy Harris said: “She’s super. Avantage got past us, sort of eyeballed her and she goes: not today. I was in a beautiful spot and I was happy to be where I was. All credit to the mare, she’s tough and I was lucky to get the ride on her.”
Trainer Jamie Richards said: “It was a lovely ride from Troy (Harris) and he had her in the right spot. I just got a feeling on Thursday morning that she was somewhere near where she needed to be and Troy came in and said that gave him a bit of confidence.
“She’s a wonderful mare and true credit to everyone that has looked after her from day one. The team in Australia sent her back in great order and Nicole Shailer and Sam Bergerson and their team at the Middle Barn have done a wonderful job.
“I honestly don’t believe she was going that badly in Sydney, just running into star horses and not having a lot of luck, so here she is back in New Zealand and she loves it. Good horses can overcome most things, but a good barrier (3) and a lovely ride is a big help.
“Troy has been working unbelievably hard, riding at light weights and he’s a proper horseman. He’s a big part of our team and does a wonderful job.
“Avantage got away cleanly from the gates, tracked the other mare (Melody Belle) into the race and has just gone down fighting. They’re two proper champions and we’re very lucky to have them in our stable.”
Avantage was ridden by Danielle Johnson, who was seeking to record her fourth win on the programme.
Richards said that provided both mares came through the race in good order they could return for the $250,000 Livamol Classic (Gr. 1, 2040m) on 17 October at Hastings. Adding that fifth placed Prise De Fer (Savabeel) would likely join them.
Purchased by Te Akau principal David Ellis CNZM for $57,500 as a yearling at Karaka, Melody Belle, winner of 11 Group 1 races (16 from 33 in total) and $3.6 million in prize money, received her most recent award earlier last the week when fending off stable-mates Avantage (Fastnet Rock), Te Akau Shark (Rip Van Winkle), and Prise De Fer (Savabeel) to win the J. W. McAnnally Champion Sprinter/Miler title at Matamata, and she concluded the evening being named Matamata Horse of the Year for the second time.
“It’s hard to put into words what an incredible performance that was by Melody Belle,” Ellis said. “She’d had a bit of time to freshen since coming back from Sydney, while Avantage had a traditional lead-up to the race, but Melody Belle would just not be denied.
“This has been another great training performance by Jamie (Richards) and the team at the Middle Barn, and Troy (Harris) produced a sensational ride.
“To see those two great mares charging to the line, neck and neck, was incredible and what racing horses is all about.
“And I doubt she’s finished yet, Melody Belle. She’s always been patiently handled, obviously loves racing and I think she’s got more Group 1 wins in her legs, both here and in Australia.”
Race sponsor Rodney Schick (Windsor Park) said: “Congratulations to John Galvin and the Melody Belle Syndicate. It is fantastic to be here today and see this mare win three in row. Congratulations to Troy (Harris) for his dedication. And, finally, to the three champions: Melody Belle, Jamie Richards, and DC (David Ellis) for buying this wonderful mare. Te Akau Stud is a massive part of New Zealand racing and David does a great job in supporting us all, so congratulations.”
Fortuna Syndicate manager John Galvin said: “What a mare, what a race. Thank you David Ellis for selecting this filly for us at the 2016 Karaka sale, and thank you Jamie for having this mare trained to the minute. Well done Troy Harris. Three times Troy has ridden horses for us in Group 1 races and he has won them all. The 2000 Guineas on Tell A Tale and now twice on Melody Belle. I’d also like to give a shout out to Avantage, it was another great performance by wonderful mare.”
Melody Belle was strapped by Mette Mosebo.
Photo credit – www.raceimages.co.nz