Glamour galloper Melody Belle has added the New Zealand Horse of the Year title to her growing list of achievements. The Matamata mare was an almost unanimous choice for Horse of the Year, which was announced at the New Zealand Thoroughbred Horse of the Year Awards, in Auckland on Sunday night. Of the 61 votes cast for Horse of the Year, Melody Belle received 59, with one apiece for stablemate Te Akau Shark and Bostonian, who was a dual Group 1 winner in Australia.
Melody Belle was also named Champion Sprinter-Miler for the 2018-19 season and was narrowly beaten by Danzdanzdance in the middle-distance category. Yourdeel, a stablemate of Melody Belle, was named Champion Two-Year-Old, with Madison County (three-year-old), Glory Days (stayer) and Jackfrost (Jumper) taking the other horse categories.
Opie Bosson, who won six Group 1 races last season, headed off premiership winner Lisa Allpress by four votes in a tight battle for Champion Jockey. It was the fifth win for Bosson and came 21 years after his first.
Champion trainer Murray Baker, who had trained the previous five Horse of the Year winners, received the prestigious Contribution to Racing award. Baker has had a long and successful career and has won more Group 1 races in Australia than any other New Zealand trainer. Baker and his training partner Andrew Forsman have won almost 600 races over the past five seasons and set new benchmarks in terms of wins, stake earnings and black-type wins. They have won 105 back type races over that period, including 78 Group races, with 23 at Group 1 level. The stable’s stake earnings for the period have topped $25 million.
Melody Belle presented an irresistible case for New Zealand Horse of the Year honours, with a near faultless four-year-old campaign, which produced six Group wins from eight starts, ranging in distance from 1200m to 2000m. She was a dominant force at weight-for-age level, with six wins from six weight-for-age outings, including a record five Group 1 wins.
Melody Belle has already made a mark in the new season, winning the Group 1 Tarzino Trophy (1400m) at Hastings on August 31. The Commands mare, who was bred by Marie Leicester, was purchased out of Haunui Farm’s 2016 New Zealand Bloodstock Premier Yearling Sale by Te Akau Principal David Ellis for $57,500. She is trained by Jamie Richards and raced by the Fortuna Melody Belle Syndicate, which is managed by syndicator John Galvin.
Wellington owner Lib Petagna, who races under the JML Bloodstock banner, was voted Owner of the Year for the fourth successive year. Petagna had 14 winners or stakes-placed horses, from 26 runners, including two Group 1 winners and three group placegetters. He had a 50 percent share in Group 1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) winner Crown Prosecutor and raced Group 1 NZ Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes (1600m) winner Nicoletta on his own.
The deeds of champion Hong Kong galloper Beauty Generation were reflected in the two major breeding awards. Nearco Stud, which bred Beauty Generation, was Breeder of the Year and Beauty Generation’s dam, Stylish Bel, was Broodmare of the Year. Beauty Generation, a son of Road To Rock, was unbeaten in eight starts in Hong Kong in the 2018-19 season and was crowned Hong Kong Horse of the Year for the second successive year. Nearco Stud, which is owned by South Island businessman Greg Tomlinson, was also represented by Group 2 winner Belle du Nord and Group 3 winner Miss Federer.