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Te Akau’s “Season That Was”

11 Jul 2019

Te Akau’s “Season That Was”

It’s been a ripper of a 2018/19 racing season for Te Akau in New Zealand – with our trainer Jamie Richards and our team bringing home a total of 18 Group/Listed races – 17 in New Zealand and one in Australia.

No doubt the SEVEN Group 1 races amongst this tally is a massive achievement we are extraordinarily proud of – with Melody Belle and Yourdeel looking to be season award-winners-in-the-waiting.

We were also chuffed beyond words to win our third consecutive Karaka 2YO Million race – with Jamie and the team actually filling the trifecta – Probabeel, Aotea Lad and Yourdeel – 1st, 2ndand 3rd.

All this is Jamie’s first season as sole trainer for Te Akau in New Zealand.

As we enter July, the final month of the season, we have decided once again to throw the ‘reflective spotlight’ on these 18 amazing races – won by some of the most talented horses we have in the stable.

To say it has been a season of pride, does not do our emotion justice.  To say the words “thank you” to our owners seems insufficient – to our team and that includes our riders, our veterinary specialists, our farriers, our feed merchants, our transportation team – every single person who contributed to this season – it has been the season of success it has been, because of you!

Time now to look back on how Jamie and the team started 2018/19 with a BANG – as Melody Belle claimed the first Group 2 race of the season – the Group 2 Lisa Chittick Foxbridge Plate.  It turned out to be quite some season for her too as you know – bought by David for just $57,500 – she went on to win five Group 1 events following this … making it six in her glittering career.

Enjoy our first reflection on Te Akau’s Season That Was”…

On his birthday, Jamie Richards gained his first stakes’ win as sole Te Akau trainer early in the season when Melody Belle(4 m Commands – Meleka Belle, by Iffraaj) saluted in the $100,000 Lisa Chittick Foxbridge Plate (Gr. 2, 1200m) on 18 August at Te Rapa.

Little did he know that the Karaka Million (Listed, 1200m) and Sires’ Produce Stakes (Gr. 1, 1400m) winning Champion Two-Year-Old would add five Group One wins during the season and virtually assure herself ‘Horse of the Year’ honours. 

Giving indication for what lay ahead when winning her trial under a hold on 17 July at Te Rapa, having her first sight of the course, Melody Belle was given an inch-perfect ride by Shafiq to nail race favourite Julius (Swiss Ace) on the line.

Both the trial and fresh-up victory suggested she was back in business after a relatively quiet three-year-old season, although she did become the first Karaka Million winner since its inception 10 years ago to win at the Karaka Million meeting a year on when successful in the Mongolian Khan Trophy (Gr. 3, 1200m).

“It was one of the biggest thrills I’ve ever had on a racecourse, to see Jamie’s first win, on a course that is dear to my heart, in a race sponsored by good friends of mine and a family that has been very generous to Te Akau, was quite amazing,” said Te Akau principal David Ellis.

“I’m thrilled for the staff that supported Jamie and all the owners that have given him so much support, and it’s great to see a young man win his first race in a Group Two against the best horses that were available in New Zealand.”

Melody Belle was purchased by Ellis as a yearling for $57,500 at the 2016 New Zealand Bloodstock Premier Sale, from the draft of Haunui Farm. She has now won 11 of her 20 starts and $1.64 million in prize money and at the end of her campaign in March, owners in the Fortuna Melody Belle Syndicate (Mgr: John Galvin) turned down a whopping $3.25m.

Galvin said he was “humbled” as syndicate manager that owners wanted to continue racing the star mare “until such time as she was ready to retire from racing”. While a tilt at Australia in the spring remains a possibility, her connections are also eyeing the $5m All Star Mile (1600m) in autumn at Flemington.

In winning the Foxbridge Plate Melody Belle provided Shafiq with his second stakes’ win since returning to New Zealand, having won the Travis Stakes (Gr. 2, 2000m) aboard stable-mate Our Abbadean (Lookin at Lucky) in April at Te Rapa.

Ellis said: “Having Suppy (Shafiq) ride such a wonderful race also added to an extraordinary achievement because he’s been working for Te Akau since he was a kid and was twice Champion apprentice in Singapore when up there with Mark (Walker)”.

Although thrilled with the win, Richards admitted to some reservations beforehand.

“I was a little bit worried with her during the week,” he said. “Her work wasn’t that flash on Tuesday and I didn’t want to pump her up too much, but she is a racehorse, was given a lovely ride by Suppy and really toughed it out to the line.”

Interestingly, Richards had started his training career on a high note when Stella Di Paco (Paco Boy) was successful in the Castletown Stakes (Listed, 1200m) at Wanganui, May 2015, on the way to 104 victories and a Training Premiership title (2015/16) in conjunction with co-trainer Stephen Autridge.

Melody Belle was strapped by Teina Walters.

Photo credit – www.raceimages.co.nz

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