Horse of the Year Melody Belle out to give rising star Richards another moment to remember

Melody Belle and strapper Craig Thornton working on the beach ahead of the Mackinnon Stakes at Flemington on Saturday. Photo: Darryl Sherer

Jamie Richards has been on the ride of his life in Australia this spring and the young trainer is hoping New Zealand’s darling of the turf, Melody Belle, can cap it off in style at Flemington on Saturday.

The reigning New Zealand Horse of the Year will line-up in the G1 Mackinnon Stakes (2000m) at the Melbourne racecourse, the site of her G1 heroics in the Empire Rose Stakes (1600m) on the Melbourne Cup card last weekend. “She broke the pattern of the day,” Richards said. “She came from off the speed and quickened well.”

The win, which helped lift Richards three places in the TRC Global Rankings to world #15, was one of the biggest moments in his fledgling career and he hopes for another on Saturday.

“It was a big thrill on Saturday,” he said. “Gingernuts won the Rosehill Guineas (G1, 2000m) in Australia when I was training with Steve [Autridge], but to go to Melbourne in the spring on arguably the biggest day of the year was very exciting and I was very pleased that she could put it all together.”

Confidence to press on

The Empire Rose victory gave Richards, Te Akau principal David Ellis and Fortuna Syndications manager John Galvin the confidence to press on to the Mackinnon rather than the G2 Matriarch Stakes (2000m) on Saturday.

“There’s a big difference in the prize money,” he said. “It’s very hard to fault her form and we think she deserves an opportunity to have a go at the best of them.”

Melody Belle will be vying to record her 11th G1victory, and fifth in-a-row, in the 2000m feature, but she will need to overcome barrier 15 in the 16 horse field.

It is not the first time Richards has been met with such a hurdle this spring. Te Akau Shark was dealt the outside barrier in the Cox Plate, but a superb ride by leading New Zealand rider Opie Bosson resulted in a game third-placing.

“We are going to need a little bit of luck with the way the barriers have come out, but hopefully there is good tempo in the race and we can get back a little bit, where hopefully she can finish off as strongly as she did last Saturday,” Richards said.

He has been happy with the way Melody Belle has pulled up after Saturday’s assignment and he will fly out today (Wednesday) to watch her last piece of work before the race.

“She has done well, we have been pleased with her,” Richards said. “She has eaten reasonably well. We haven’t done too much with her. She has been to the beach a couple of times and did a little bit of pace work.”

Melody Belle is unbeaten over 2000m and Richards is hoping to keep that record intact on Saturday. “In the Livamol (G1, 2040m), she probably didn’t beat much that day, but at Ellerslie in the autumn, when she beat Danzdanzdance on a heavy track in the Bonecrusher [G1, 2000m] it certainly suggested that she has got a bit of stamina and she can handle the trip. The 2000m doesn’t look to worry her.”

Melody Belle and Danzdanzdance, who is now trained by Chris Waller in Sydney, could meet once again on Saturday. However, being the first reserve, Danzdanzdance would require a scratching to make the field.

While Melody Belle has proven herself at elite level in Australia, the $57,500 Karaka yearling sale purchase by David Ellis is set to return to Australian shores next year in a bid to chase more G1spoils.

“She will be in the spelling paddock on Monday and she will be coming back to New Zealand for a break,” Richards said. “Hopefully we can crank her up in the autumn and get her back over to Australia.”

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