Outstanding race-mare Melody Belle capped a wonderful season when she beat a quality field in Saturday’s Gr.1 Bonecrusher New Zealand Stakes (2000m) at Ellerslie.
The victory made it Group One victory number five in a season that has seen the Commands four-year-old win six of her eight starts and over $700,000 in prizemoney.
The victory also allowed regular rider Opie Bosson to establish a new record of 63 Group One wins by a kiwi rider, after he equalled former record-holder Lance O’Sullivan with victory on Yourdeel in the Sistema Stakes (1200m) one race earlier.
Arguably this victory is the best of an action-packed season for the Jamie Richards-trained mare as she defeated a field that included seven other Group One winners.
The Fortuna Melody Belle Syndicate-owned runner had to do it the hard way as she looped the field with second favourite Danzdanzdance before they set down to a two-horse war for the length of the Ellerslie home-straight.
Finding something extra in the last 50m, Melody Belle stuck her neck in front to defeat a game Danzdanzdance with Rondinella finishing a promising third at her first attempt in elite company.
Richards bore a smile a mile-wide as he accepted congratulations in the Ellerslie birdcage, before hinting at some big plans for his charge next year.
“I said to the boys during the week that it was going to be good to see two top mares go toe-to-toe and thankfully we have come out on top.
“She goes to the paddock now, hopefully as the horse of the year.
“She will have a nice break and will be back in on the 1st of May. We will try to take the same route as we did last spring but hopefully, we might go to Melbourne for a bit of a look around as well.
“It (the Cox Plate) has got to be the target as hopefully the mare of the world (Winx) might be retired by then which would make things easier.”
Melody Belle was purchased for $57,500 out of the 2016 National Yearling Sale by Te Akau Racing boss David Ellis on behalf of syndicator, John Galvin under his Fortuna Bloodstock banner.
Runner-up Danzdanzdance pleased co-trainer Chris Gibbs who confirmed the Australian plans for his charge were still on.
“We’re very proud of her as it was a huge run.” He said.
“Congratulations to Jamie Richards and Melody Belle as we had her headed at the 150m and she kicked back.
“We were humming and haahing whether we would even come here, and I’m pleased that we did.
“We will see how she comes through this week but the plans to go to Australia are at the top of our list.” – NZ Racing Desk
Race Replay: Melody Belle takes out the Gr.1 Bonecrusher New Zealand Stakes at Ellerslie