Grand final for Te Akau trio

Te Akau Shark
Te Akau Shark (pictured) and Melody Belle will contest the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) at Randwick on Saturday. Photo: Bradleyphotos.com.au

Te Akau Racing will be hoping their trio of Sydney runners can finish their autumn campaigns on a high at Randwick on Saturday. Melody Belle and Te Akau Shark will contest the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m), while Probabeel will tackle 2400m for the first time when she lines up in the Group 1 Australian Oaks.

Travelling foreman Paul Richards, the father of Te Akau trainer Jamie Richards, has been pleased with the way Melody Belle has come through her brave fourth-placing in the Group 1 Doncaster Mile (1600m) last Saturday and he believes she is a strong chance of adding an 11th Group 1 victory to her tally this weekend. “She has come through the Doncaster really well,” he said. “She had a tough run obviously, but she has pulled up well and I have been happy with her this week. “With the draws, Melody Belle is going to get a soft run. She has drawn four and is probably going to be fourth or fifth in the running doing no work.”

Richards is also happy with last start Group 1 George Ryder Stakes (1500m) placegetter Te Akau Shark, despite concerns over a foot issue. The son of Rip Van Winkle sustained bruising to his foot during his last start run and synthetic hoof filler was applied to the affected foot. He was subsequently vetted on Tuesday and has been given the green light to run this weekend. “He just had a bit of bruising around his heel area,” Richards said. “But we have got a very good farrier over here and he has worked the oracle with him.

“Opie (Bosson, jockey) galloped him on Tuesday morning. He was very happy with him and said he felt good. “He pulled up sound and we trotted him up yesterday (Tuesday) for the racing club vet and he was happy with him. “He worked this morning and was sound, so we are looking good for the weekend. Apart from this little foot issue his preparation has been faultless.”

Te Akau Shark has drawn barrier eight and will be ridden by regular rider Opie Bosson, while Kerrin McEvoy will be aboard Melody Belle. “The Shark has drawn out a bit, he will probably go back just to get some cover. But the last furlong (200m) could be very interesting.”

The Te Akau duo will meet a formidable line-up on Saturday, which includes Japanese raider Danon Premium, but Richards believes both runners are strong winning chances. “You can only race what is in front of you,” he said. “It is a huge task in front of them, because these are some of the best horses in the world. “I think if they are 100 percent and get a bit of luck in the running, both of them will be very competitive.”

Meanwhile, Richards is excited about the prospects of Probabeel on Saturday when she tackles the Australian Oaks. It will be the first test over 2400m for the filly, however, Richards doesn’t believe the distance will be a problem for her. “The way she races and relaxes in the running suggests she will get the 2400m,” he said. “She is by Savabeel, out of a Pins mare, so I think she has a few things in her favour.”

Probabeel has had some memorable meetings with archrival Funstar this autumn, however, her foe’s connections have elected to target the Group 1 Coolmore Legacy Stakes (1600m) later on the card, and Richards believes Probabeel is now the one to beat in the Oaks. “Her and Funstar have had some epic battles in the spring and again in the autumn,” Richards said. “I think if she brings that form on Saturday and gets the mile and a half, she will be very hard to beat.”

Along with Ashely Handley, Richards has been in Australia looking after Te Akau’s Sydney team, and while he did have the opportunity to get back to New Zealand before the Covid- 19 alert level was raised to level 4, he said he elected to stay across the Tasman. “It is a job that has to be done. David (Ellis, Te Akau Principal) did ring me and say we can give the horses to other trainers and get you home. But I said I would stay and hopefully we will get the job done on Saturday.”

All three runners will head to the spelling paddock after their weekend assignments and Richards said he and Handley would make their way back to New Zealand next week, while Bosson would stay on to ride on the last day of the carnival. “There are no horse flights back to New Zealand at the moment, so they are going to Lime Country, which is a couple of hours out of Sydney,” Richards said. “They will spell there until such time as we can get them home.

“We are tentatively booked on a flight on Thursday-week. Opie is going to stay and ride on the last day, so he will probably be the week after. “But it all depends on the Government and what protocols they have in place at the time. At the moment we can fly back and we have our own facilities to self-isolate, which we do. “We have got a farm and so does Opie. And Ashley will go to her parents place. But if that changes and you have to quarantine at the port where you land, which is Auckland, we would have to spend two weeks in a hotel.”

Richards said he has been kept busy in Sydney and his family have rallied around each other back in Matamata. “Fortunately our daughter Libby is staying with my wife Leanne, so at least she has got some company. “We have got some spellers for Te Akau, so Jamie is out there on a daily basis feeding them. They are coping alright. “I have just been watching a bit of TV and reading, but you spend a fair bit of time at the stables with the horses. We hand walk them and give them a pick, so I have been filling in the day not too bad. “But I am looking forward to Saturday, it is going to be some day alright.”