Godolphin trainer James Cummings admits he is “terrified” of Melody Belle as he prepares two mares to clash with the star New Zealander in the Group One Empire Rose Stakes.
The Jamie Richards-trained Melody Belle is New Zealand’s reigning Horse of the Year and has won three Group One races this season to take her tally to nine.
Saturday’s Empire Rose (1600m) at Flemington for fillies and mares will be the five-year-old’s first Australian start since March last year when she was unplaced in the Surround Stakes.
Melody Belle heads the market at $2.80 ahead of acceptances on Wednesday while the Cummings-trained pair, Pohutukawa and Savatiano, are among the main challengers at $7 and $9 respectively.
Pohutukawa won a fillies stakes race over 1400m at Flemington last spring while her only other start at Flemington was a fast-closing second in the Group Two Blazer Stakes (1400m) two starts ago.
“Up to the mile should really see her at her best,” Cummings said.
“But I’m terrified of the form of the New Zealand mare Melody Belle.
“Just terrified. I wish she was in the Cox Plate.”
Melody Belle worked stylishly on the Flemington course proper on Tuesday morning.
Pohutukawa hit the line late for fourth in the Group Two Tristarc Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield at her most recent start which was won by Savatiano who dominated the race to win by 2-1/4-lengths.
“Savatiano is going into it in winning form so that’s is beautiful to see,” Cummings said.
“She’s not a proven miler. She’s just a little bit of a worry for us of getting a genuine mile.
“But if it’s a slowly run race and she’s going to put herself right on the speed, she’s capable of being in the finish. And they wouldn’t want to treat her lightly.
“And Pohutukawa is ready to run the race of her campaign, as we’ve targeted this all the way through.”
Pohutukawa came close to winning the Group One Tattersall’s Tiara in Brisbane in June when she was beaten a short half-head by Invincibella.