Superstar race-mare Melody Belle celebrated being named New Zealand Horse of the Year last Sunday evening when she stormed home to take out her twelfth individual Group 1 title at Hastings on Saturday. The Jamie Richards-trained six-year-old was in a class of her own as she took out her second Group 1 Livamol Classic (2040m) in imperious fashion for rider Troy Harris.
The Commands mare had worked sensationally during the week which had her connections brimming with confidence leading into the contest and she didn’t disappoint. Settled beyond midfield due to her outside barrier, Melody Belle was still giving the leaders a sizeable start with 600m to run.
Stablemates Avantage and Prise De Fer took over rounding the home bend but Melody Belle was starting to go through her gears as she dashed to the front at the 300m with a powerful burst. Harris had an armchair ride over the concluding stages as Melody Belle comfortably held out Avantage, who had also provided the quinella with her a fortnight ago in the Group 1 Windsor Park Plate (1600m), and outsider Vadavar, who charged late to snatch third.
“They only went steady for the first half of the race so there was a touch of concern, but she was explosive in the end,” Richards said. “I don’t like to say too much leading into races but she hadn’t put a foot wrong and she was awesome today, just a great mare. “It’s a great feeling and the team at home have done a magnificent job with her. We have been under the pump a little as we have horses here, at Riccarton and over in Sydney and they just get on with the job and never moan. “Twelve Group 1s, a Karaka Million (1200m) and a Group 1 win in Melbourne, she is just going great and is nowhere near finished yet.”
Harris was ecstatic when he returned to the Hastings birdcage. “She went to sleep in the gates a little and I was happy to be where I was in the run,” he said. “When we got out into the middle of the track and I had come off their backs, she just accelerated and was way too good. “It’s very special to me as I do a lot of work with her and I have had some great success in these colours. “This is right up there in my career and it’s just great to get my name in the book for this race.”
Syndicate manager John Galvin confirmed that Harris had had thirteen rides on Fortuna syndicate horses and had won ten of them, including four Group 1 victories. “It was an imperious display and I’m just so happy for Troy,” he said. “We’ve got a big crew of syndicate members here and we brought her back from Australia so we could have moments like this, so it is quite emotional. “Jamie is an amazing trainer and at such a young age he has stepped up to the plate. He plays his cards close to his chest but I could tell by his demeanour he thought she would be hard to beat today.”
Purchased by Te Akau Racing principal David Ellis for the Fortuna Melody Belle Syndicate for $57,500 out of the Haunui Farm draft during the premier session at Karaka in 2016, Melody Belle has now won seventeen of her 34 starts, twelve Group 1s and over $3.812m in prizemoney.