Te Akau Shines at Matamata Awards

Date: 29 Sep 2020

Te Akau Shines at Matamata Awards

Reigning Horse of the Year Melody Belle (6 m Commands - Meleka Belle, by Iffraaj) spearheaded another successful haul for Te Akau Racing at the Matamata Racing Awards on Monday night, held in the Epsom Lounge at Matamata Racecourse.

Purchased by Te Akau principal
David Ellis CNZM for $57,500 as a yearling at Karaka, Melody Belle, winner of
10 Group 1 races and $3.5 million in prize money, had to fend 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 and she
concluded the evening being named Matamata Horse of the Year for the second

Melody Belle recorded four Group
1 wins in the 2019/20 season, including an historical treble in the Hawkes Bay
Triple Crown: Tarzino Trophy (Gr. 1, 1400m), Windsor Park Plate (Gr. 1, 1600m),
and Livamol Classic (Gr. 1, 2040m), to remain unbeaten in all five Group 1
starts at Hastings, plus the Empire Rose Stakes (Gr. 1, 1600m) at Flemington,
and matched the herculean Winx (Street Cry) - 25 Gr. 1 wins - by winning seven
Group 1 races in a calendar year (2019). Winx achieved the feat in 2018.

Underlining the stiffness of the
competition, Avantage completed an astonishing Group 1 treble in the Telegraph
(Gr. 1, 1200m), Haunui Farm Classic (Gr. 1, 1600m), and Bonecrusher New Zealand
Stakes (Gr. 1, 2000m)) last season, Te Akau Shark ran a cracking race for
second in the Epsom Handicap (Gr. 1, 1600m) at Randwick, before a terrific
third in the $5m Cox Plate (Gr. 1, 2040m), was brilliant winning the BCD Group
Sprint (Gr. 1, 1400m) at Te Rapa, and the Chipping Norton Stakes (Gr. 1, 1600m)
at Royal Randwick, while Rich Hill Mile (Gr. 2, 1600m) winner Prise De Fer had
an incredible season winning five in a row before finishing second to
stable-mate Avantage in the Haunui Farm Classic (Gr. 1, 1600m). All three were
also purchased by David Ellis.

Accepting the award on behalf of Fortuna Melody Belle Syndicate (Mgr: John Galvin), Shane Thomsen (joined on stage by his mother, Marline) said: “John & Jessica (Galvin) were unable to be here and it's a privilege for me. I pinch myself every day, to be honest, to be involved in a horse in such esteemed company as the other nominees. I've just had a look at Melody Belle at the stables and she looks pretty smart ahead of racing this Saturday (Windsor Park Plate (Gr. 1, 1600m)) at Hastings.


“I would like to thank David
Ellis for buying Melody Belle and I still remember the day when I first saw her
in the paddock at Te Akau Stud. And, well done to Jamie (Richards) and the
team. Hopefully we have a few more wins to come.

“I would also like to mention
Opie (Bosson), who has ridden her in eight wins, three places, and a fourth, so
a brilliant record and a top jockey, and certainly not wanting to detract from
the other jockeys that have ridden her. The Te Akau jockeys are brilliant.”

Incredibly, Shane and Marline
Thomsen have witnessed every trial and race by their star mare apart from those
affected by Covid alert levels.

Co-MC Frank Vosper added: “It's
fantastic and I think syndication is what has kept racing alive and well in New
Zealand. And for all the people that have a share in Melody Belle, it is an
unbelievable experience, congratulations.”

Matamata Racing Club Chairman
Dennis Ryan said: “She has an X-factor. She has been Horse of the Year at
Matamata before, reigning New Zealand Horse of the Year, and I can take a risk
and say she probably will be again. She is an amazing and wonderful racehorse
that puts her heart and soul into everything. She is a horse we all inspire to
be involved with and it must be great fun. Well done to Jamie, DC (David
Ellis), Karyn (Fenton-Ellis), these types of horses don't come along every tick
of the clock and sometimes only once in a generation. Where she will end up in
the pantheon of stars I'm not quite sure, but I think what she's done so far is
incredible and she's defeated so many good horses in order to win these

Having provided Te Akau with
their fourth consecutive $1m Karaka Million 2YO (Restricted Listed, 1200m)
victory, Cool Aza Beel (3 c Savabeel
- Cool ‘N' Sassy, by Testa Rossa) returned to his favourite course (Ellerslie)
for victory in the Sistema Stakes (Gr. 1, 1200m) on Auckland Cup Day (7 March),
and proved a worthy winner of the Roger Blake Champion Two-Year-Old title.

Owned by the Te Akau Sassy Beel Syndicate (Mgr: Karyn Fenton-Ellis MNZM), winner of four from six and $707,560, and following in the footsteps of Melody Belle (Commands), Avantage (Fastnet Rock), and Probabeel (Savabeel), the colt was purchased by David Ellis CNZM for $150,000 at the 2019 Karaka Book 1 Sale, from the draft of Fairdale Stud.


“We have had a lot of joy,” said
part-owner John Elstob. “We have had plenty of drinks and had a great time
during his wins at Ellerslie. Thank you to the Matamata Racing Club, who had 13
Group 1 winners trained here last season - that's great.”

The J. C. Tucker Champion
Three-Year-Old was won by Probabeel
(4 m Savabeel - Far Fetched, by Pins). Purchased by David Ellis CNZM for $380,000,
from the draft of Waikato Stud, at the 2018 Karaka Book 1 Sale, owned by
Brendan Lindsay MNZM & Jo Lindsay (Cambridge Stud), Probabeel has won seven
of her 17 starts, including six seconds, and NZ$1.92 million in prize money.

The brilliant filly made history in January at Ellerslie, becoming the first to win the $1m Karaka Million 3YO Classic (Restricted Listed, 1600m) a year after winning the $1m Karaka Million 2YO (Restricted Listed, 1200m), before an unbelievable winning performance in the Surround Stakes (Gr. 1, 1400m) on 29 February at Randwick.


Representing the owners, Cameron
Ring said: “This mare certainly mean a lot to us all at Cambridge Stud. She is
the queen of our racing team. I would like to thank the breeder, Waikato Stud,
trainer Jamie Richards and his team, a special thank you to Ashley Handley who
is looking after her in Sydney. She seems to be back better than ever and very
exciting. And thank you to the buyer, David Ellis.”

Leading trainer Jamie Richards (By Paul out of Leanne) was again awarded the David O'Sullivan Champion Trainer title. Having ended the previous season on 98 wins in his first as solo trainer for Te Akau Racing, Richards led the premiership in all facets: wins, prize money (nearly $4 million), group & listed wins, and the best strike rate (4.8) among the top 10 trainers in the country. Adding to his 17 stakes victories in New Zealand, Richards added three Group 1 wins in Australia, with 11 of his 20 group & listed wins coming in Group 1 races and a total of 104 wins for the season.


“The highlight would probably
have to be the two Group 1 wins by Te Akau Shark and Probabeel on the same day
at Randwick,” Richards said. “Most trainers go their whole lifetime trying to
win a Group race in Australia, let alone winning two Group 1 races within half
and hour of each other at their (Autumn) carnival. That was followed very
closely by the Karaka Million double by Cool Aza Beel and Probabeel, so it's
been an incredible season and we've got a great team of people behind us. And
the genius (David Ellis) is buying the right horses, so it's all a big help.

“I would like to thank the
Matamata Racing Club for putting on the awards and also a big thank you to
(track manager) Graeme Styles and his team for the time and effort they put
into the training tracks and racecourse. It is second to none and everyone
should be very thankful of the facility we have here. I feel very privileged to
be training horses here and I doubt there is anywhere better in the world to be
training horses. The facilities and variety of work we can give horses is

“The hard work by all our staff is very much appreciated and without them these results would be impossible to achieve - thank you all on behalf on myself, David and Karyn, and Mark Walker.”

The W. L. Tisch Champion Jockey Award was won by former Te Akau apprentice Samantha Collett. Having recorded her 800th
win last Saturday aboard Supreme Heights (Jimmy Choux) at New Plymouth,
Collett highlighted last season winning the Levin Classic (Gr. 1,
1600m) on Travelling Light (El Roca) and Auckland Cup (Gr. 1, 3200m)
aboard Roger That (Shinko King). She also won the Auckland Cup in 2019
on Glory Days (Red Giant).

In summary of the evening, Te
Akau principal David Ellis said: “It's a very proud moment to have the champion
stable and to see Jamie (Richards) win Champion Trainer again in such an iconic
racing centre.

“We have won Champion 2YO, 3YO,
and Horse of the Year for the past five years consecutively and it made both Karyn
and I very proud to have attended the evening and seen the team do so well

“People don't realize how hard the staff work and the sacrifices they make, to start at 3.30 in the morning and not finish until 5 o'clock on a good day. If they've got races, they may not get home until well into the night. They do it because they love the horses and they're very special human beings.

“It's an outstanding job by all
the staff, because you don't get the results we're achieving with all these
good horses if you're not doing everything right. We're very lucky that we've
got the best staff that anyone could hope for.

“The competition was incredibly
strong last season. Interestingly enough, to think that a mare like Avantage,
who won three Group 1 races from 1200 metres to 2000 metres, didn't win an
award tells you the quality. Te Akau Shark, who ran second in the Epsom
Handicap, third in the Cox Plate, and won Group 1 races on both sides of the
Tasman, couldn't win an award and that tells you how competitive it is.

“It was great for the staff to come and have a few drinks and some nice food and to be involved.”


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