Star mare Melody Belle, who was named New Zealand Horse of the Year for the second year in succession on Sunday night, will be out to land her 12th Group 1 victory when she contests the Livamol Classic (2040m) at Hastings on Saturday. Connections have paid a late-entry to supplement the Jamie Richards-trained mare for the third leg of the Hawke’s Bay Triple Crown, where she will once again do battle with stablemate Avantage.
There was just a nose separating the pair last start, with Melody Belle prevailing in the Group 1 Windsor Park Plate (1600m) to make an instant impact upon her return from an Australian campaign. After showing she was back to something akin to her best, Melody Belle is a $2.40 favourite for the Livamol ahead of Avantage ($3.40) and there was not much separating the pair in their work on Tuesday morning according to Fortuna Thoroughbreds’ John Galvin, who manages the Fortuna Melody Belle Syndicate.
“She galloped with Avantage this morning and it was a bit similar to their gallop together before the Windsor Park Plate,” Galvin said. “It rained, so the track was wet, and on the corner Avantage skipped away a bit from Melody Belle and went to the line a length or two ahead of her but Melody Belle kept on running through the line and past the line.
“It caused us a bit of head scratching last time it happened but that is her and we know what she did in the mile (Windsor Park Plate) so she will be right on Saturday. “She is an older mare now and she has it worked out, she knows what race day is and what trackwork is.”
The Hamilton-based syndicator is once again looking forward to being on-course at Hastings with the bulk of the 34-strong syndicate that race Melody Belle. The inability to see the mare was one of the contributing factors as to why the daughter of Commands returned from a spring campaign in Sydney early after an inconclusive run when a luckless 11th in the Group 1 Winx Stakes (1400m).
“We had 18 or so on Windsor Park day but I think we will have close to 30 this time,” Galvin said. “I have people coming up from Christchurch and down from Whangarei so it is great.”
Galvin said it was a major boost to his syndication business to have a horse of such repute. “Jessica and I run Fortuna as a home-based business from Hamilton. We have 30 horses syndicated and 13 of them are in Singapore with Mark Walker and we have a jumper with Kevin Myers,” he said.
“The rest are trained by Jamie Richards at Te Akau’s Matamata stables and it is important to have a flag bearer type horse when you are a syndication business. “We have had plenty of other horses win for us this year in Singapore and New Zealand so it is not all about Melody Belle, but it does help to have a flag-bearer like her and we get a lot of publicity from it.”
Looking ahead, Melody Belle is likely to have a brief break before targeting the Group 1 Rydges Wellington Captain Cook Stakes (1600m) at Trentham on December 5. “She can afford to have a week or 10 days freshen after the Livamol and then the next target is the Captain Cook Stakes and three weeks later we have the Zabeel Classic (Group 1, 2000m) and we haven’t planned beyond that,” Galvin said. “There are options in both New Zealand and Australia in the autumn and we are very open to going back to Australia.”
Melody Belle will again be ridden by Troy Harris this Saturday, with the quality rider having forged a good record when sporting the Fortuna colours. “Troy has had three Group 1 rides for Fortuna and won them all, so he has a 100 percent strike rate,” Galvin said.
Harris landed his first Group 1 win on the Fortuna-owned Tell A Tale in the 2009 New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m), while he was also successful on Melody Belle in last year’s Group 1 BCD Group Sprint (1400m).
Galvin will again defer to the expert eye of Te Akau principal David Ellis at the upcoming New Zealand Bloodstock Ready To Run Sale, who purchased Melody Belle for $57,500 at the 2016 New Zealand Bloodstock Premier Yearling Sale. “We will probably look to buy something at the Ready To Run Sale, but I let Jamie and David make those decisions for us,” he said.