Reigning New Zealand horse of the year Melody Belle will embark on the first steps of her final racing journey at the Gold Coast, Australia, on Saturday, one which holds plenty of sentiment for her trainer Jamie Richards.
Matamata-based Richards will produce 14-time Group One winner Melody Belle in Saturday’s Group 2 Hollindale Stakes (1800m), the lead-up to her swansong for her current connections in the Group 1 Doomben Cup (2000m) on May 22.
“She’s had such a wonderful career but we’re not going to Queensland to make up the numbers,” Richards said.
“Everything seems to have gone according to plan. We were pretty happy with her trial at Rosehill last week and Ashley (Handley, travelling attendant) is happy with the way she has progressed since then.
“Over 1800m on Saturday, she might be a shade vulnerable. We’re expecting her to take benefit from this weekend’s race with a view to having her at her peak for the Doomben Cup over 2000m at her next start.
“The 1800m this weekend will tidy her up nicely for a shot at one last Group One race.”
Melody Belle had her final trackwork gallop at Randwick on Wednesday morning before floating to the Gold Coast ahead of her weekend assignment, in which she will be ridden by Opie Bosson from barrier 17.
Richards won’t be at the Gold Coast meeting but plans to head to Doomben for Melody Belle’s final race later this month.
“We expect her to run well on Saturday but we think she’s still got a little bit of improvement in her for the Doomben Cup,” Richards said.
Already this year Melody Belle has won twice at Group One level, in the Thorndon Mile (1600m) at Trentham and the New Zealand Stakes (2000m) at Ellerslie. She made up good ground to finish sixth in last month’s Group 1 Tancred Stakes (2400m) at Rosehill.
The Hollindale Stakes has also attracted fellow Waikato gallopers Tiptronic, who has drawn barrier two for trainer Graham Richardson and jockey Glen Boss, and Two Illicit, drawn six for trainers Roger James and Robert Wellwood and jockey Vinnie Colgan.
Meanwhile, Richards will bid to add to his record tally of 36 stakes winners in New Zealand this season when he produces Noverre and Synchronize in the Listed Waikato Equine Veterinary Centre 2YO Stakes (1100m) at Te Rapa on Saturday.
Both are last-start winners that tuned up for the juvenile feature with second placings at last month’s Taupo trials.
“They are both bringing good form into the race. They both had quiet trials at Taupo and are going into the race in great order,” Richards said.
Savabeel colt Noverre won both his trials leading into his debut second to subsequent Group One performer Bonny Lass at Matamata in January before going one better on his home track at Matamata in February.
“We’ve had to keep him pretty fresh and well because 1100m is well short of his best distance. Hopefully the weather holds to the weekend and he gets a good track so we can get the best of out of him,” Richards said, adding that he believed the colt was capable of figuring in next season’s Group 1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m) at Riccarton.
“Synchronize is coming off the back of a good win and she’s getting better all the time. I really can’t split them.”
Richards’ other runners accepted for Te Rapa are Bak Da Master, The Panther, Romantic Lady, Top Brass, The Mighty Spar, Lucky Shark and Campionessa.