The Queen Reigns Supreme – Group 1 No.12 for Melody Belle
18 Oct 2020
A sell-out crowd came to see Melody Belle (6 m Commands – Meleka Belle, by Iffraaj) win the $250,000 Livamol Classic (Gr. 1, 2040m) on Saturday at Hastings, and she did so in spine-tingling fashion.
The “Queen of New Zealand racing”, “mini Winx”, were some of the superlatives, while Fortuna Syndicate manager John Galvin called the win “imperious”.
An historical winner last season of the Hawkes Bay Triple Crown, Melody Belle recorded her third consecutive victory in the Windsor Park Plate (Gr. 1, 1600m) a fortnight ago at Hastings, retained her Horse of the Year title at the 2020 New Zealand Thoroughbred Horse of the Year Awards last Sunday, and remained unbeaten in seven Group 1 races on the course. Her 12 Group 1 wins is now only one behind Sunline (Desert Sun) at the head of NZ Group 1 winners.
While back to her brilliant best in beating stable-mate Avantage (Fastnet Rock) in the Windsor Park Plate, who again finished runner-up, Melody Belle was breathtaking and made a field of smart horses pale in comparison on this occasion.
Ridden by Troy Harris, from barrier 12, Melody Belle was fourth last at the post with a lap to run, set alight from eight lengths astern at the 600m and simply smoked them in the straight.
“She went to sleep in the gates and I was a bit worried, actually, but it worked out pretty good,” Harris said. “I was pretty happy to be where I was and as soon as I pulled off Vancooga’s back she accelerated and she was way too good.
“It’s very special to me and I do a lot of work with her, along with everyone in the Middle Barn, Nicole Shailer and Sam Bergerson, and it’s a big thrill. My dad (Noel) has won this race, my uncle (Des), so it’s good to get my name in the race book.”
Backed into a $1.90 & $1.20 on the TAB tote, Melody Belle won easing down by two and three-quarter lengths and ran the Cox Plate trip (2040 metres) in 2:10.1 on Slow8 footing.
Recording his sixth stakes win for the season and already clear in all facets of the premiership, trainer Jamie Richards was in awe of the great mare. “She was explosive and we don’t really like to say too much leading into races, but she never put a foot wrong and she’s a great mare,” he said.
“She’s going well and nowhere near finished yet. 12thGroup 1 win today, Karaka Million, Group 1 winner in Melbourne, and we might look back in 10 years and think how lucky we are to have had Melody Belle, Avantage, Probabeel, Te Akau Shark and those types of horses around us at the same time.
“It’s great. John (Galvin) and his team made the decision to bring her home after she’d gone a couple of pretty good races, without luck, in Sydney. The team at home have done such a magnificent job with her and I’d like to give them a big thank you because we have been under the pump a little bit with staff in Sydney, and Riccarton, as well as Matamata, and these guys are working from 3 a.m. in the morning through to 5 p.m. at night and never once moaned. They just get on with the job and do the best for the horses.
“We take great pride in the way the horses are going and we love to see them win for the wonderful owners we’ve got. There is a massive group involved in Melody Belle, the same with Avantage, and Prise De Fer has run a nice race as well.
“So, a big thank you to everybody, especially David (Ellis) & Karyn (Fenton-Ellis) for going out and buying these horses, getting all these new people involved in racing. We love this sport and we really want to see it do well and that is evidenced by what David & Karyn are doing.
“It was a no panic ride by Troy (Harris). He got her to the outside and she really let rip. She’s terrific and Troy does a lot of hard work for us and he’s a champion person to have in the team. I can’t thank him enough.”
Purchased by Te Akau principal David Ellis CNZM for $57,500 as a yearling at Karaka, Melody Belle has won of 12 Group 1 races (17 from 34 in total) and $3.87 million in prize money.
“Thank you David Ellis, you’ve done it again,” said a co-owner in Melody Belle.
“It’s so hard to win a Group 1 race,” Ellis said. “There are a lot of trainers go a lifetime trying to win a Group 1 race and to quinella the race with these two great mares, who sleep next to each other in the stable, for the second start in a row in Group 1 races, is hard to do and jolly exciting.
“It will go unnoticed by a lot of people, but not by me, what a wonderful job Jamie has done training this horse over the past four years. To have a horse at her peak for seven races here at Hawkes Bay, over three years, to win seven Group Ones at this great racecourse, where there have been some champion horses and some of best over my lifetime, is an incredible achievement.
“Nicole Shailer and Sam Bergerson and their team at the Middle Barn that look after her are quite incredible and I’m so proud of all the team that worked tirelessly through the winter months to get all our horses ready for spring and summer racing.
“Troy (Harris) is at track work every morning. He’s had his battles with weight, but he’s got it down now and a former Te Akau apprentice I’m so thrilled for him and his family. His father Noel (Harris) won the race for us on Princess Coup. It’s the fifth time we’ve won the race, after Distinctly Secret, Princess Coup (twice), and Melody Belle (twice). All horses we’ve either bred or bought.”
From the famous Belle family, Melody Belle is out of Broodmare of the Year Meleka Belle, bred by Breeder of the Year Marie Leicester, whose parents James & Annie Sarten started breeding the family in 1938 from foundation mare Belle Fox, who left daughters Belle Time and Belle Rosa.
“Imperious,” said Galvin, moments after Melody Belle crossed the line. “Back in the running, but just too good, just too good, what a mare, imperious, as I said, and words fail me.
“It was a fantastic moment and I’m so happy for Troy as well. He’s had 13 rides on Fortuna horses, won 10 of them and four of them have been Group Ones – amazing.
“The crowds love Melody Belle so much and you know the story of why we bought her back from Australia, so we could have moments like this, on these occasions, so it is a little bit emotional, really.
“Jamie (Richards) is an amazing trainer. It’s all been said before, but at such a young age (30) he’s stepped up to the plate. He’s had really good mentors, has a great team of horses, of course, but he was buzzing during the week. Like me, he plays his cards close to his chest, but I could tell from his attitude and demeanour that it would be hard to beat her today.”
Melody Belle was strapped by Mette Mosebo.
Photo credit – www.raceimages.co.nz