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Melody Belle continues the legacy of the "Belle" family

Opie Bosson celebrates as Melody Belle scores a superb win in the Karaka Million.

Opie Bosson celebrates as Melody Belle scores a superb win in the Karaka Million.
In winning the Listed New Zealand Bloodstock Karaka Million race, Melody Belle (Commands[AUS]-Meleka Belle) became the latest Stakes winner from the prolific Stakes winning "Belle" family nurtured by the Sarten family since 1939.

Marie Leicester nee Sarten, is the registered breeder of Melody Belle and she is proudly carrying on the legacy of this amazing family from her late parents James and Annie Sarten. Leicester bred and raced the dam, Meleka Belle (by Iffraaj[GB]), and Melody Belle is her first foal.

"She isn't the first Melody Belle," quipped Leicester, "the first Melody Belle was from Mum's family and won nine races, but she could be as good, as she did win at her first start, and was third in the Group Two Wakefield Challenge Stakes at her next start, now she has won the Karaka Million".

"I always loved Commands and I felt it was a perfect mating for Meleka Belle. I send two or three mares to Australia each year and sent Meleka Belle there for her first mating".

"Dad always said never count the cost of the stallion, the foals all cost the same to raise no matter what they are by. If you like the mating go for it. So I have tried to listen to him and mate my mares accordingly".

"If you look at Meleka Belle's pedigree, her dam line contains the blood of all the top stallions in New Zealand. Going back to Belle Fox who was by Foxbridge(GB), Meleka Belle was out of Empress Belle who was by Sir Tristram(IRE), out of Imperial Belle who was by Sovereign Edition(IRE) who was out of Honey Belle by Better Honey(GB) out of Belle Time who was by Summertime(GB) out of Belle Fox".

"I select the stallions to mate the mares to what I think will suit them, then run the pedigrees through to get a Brain rating."

Meleka Belle was the last foal from the three race winning mare Empress Belle whom Leicester inherited from her father James Sarten. Empress Belle left 11 winners including the Stakes placed winners Tsarina Belle, Desert Rain, Kiwinsky and Housemaster, she was the winner of three races

This week Meleka Belle's second foal, a filly by O'Reilly sold for $100,000 out of the NZB Select Sale, she has a Not A Single Doubt(AUS) filly at foot and is in foal to Tavistock.

"I have really fallen in love with the Not A Single Doubt filly and if I hadn't sold the O'Reilly filly this year, I would have had to part with the Not A Single Doubt filly next year. I usually keep a couple of fillies each year to keep the family going."

So where did the Belle family originate from? James Sarten and his wife Annie were a young farming couple in the Taranaki, raising two young children Fred and Marie. They grazed a couple of mares for a New Plymouth butcher George Tremlett.

"Dad was only in his twenties then, he grazed the mares, weaned the foals, and one year he asked Mr Tremlett where he was sending the mares? And Mr Tremlett said he had two colts on the ground and didn't know if he was going to mate the mare".

"He said to Dad, you have looked after Belle Star for years, how about you use the mare? So he sent the mare to Foxbridge(GB), I have the receipt at home, he paid 37 pounds and the mare didn't get in foal, so he sent it back in 1938 and the mare foaled Belle Fox in 1939, the year we moved to the Waikato".

"We had a block of land at Bell Block that under the Public Works Act was taken for the New Plymouth airport. Dad used to ride over to that farm each morning and one morning he went over and the land had all these pegs laid out for the airport extension, so he ripped them out and threw them in the river".

"The next day when he went back a man from the Public Works Department was waiting for him, and asked him what happened to the pegs. Dad pleaded ignorance, and the man said I saw you throwing them in the river, and served him with a notice giving him 24 hours to vacate the land! So with two little kids, and all his stock, he moved to the Waikato and that was huge for them, but they never let up on Belle Fox."

Belle Fox had six foals, her second foal was the Railway Handicap winner Supreme Court, and her third foal was Bella Rosa by Instinct, and that mating was selected by Annie Sarten and for the Sarten family descendants from that line, have became known as Mum's family while the other descendants were known as Dad's family.

The next foal by Summertime(GB) was Belle Time and she was the dam of the Stakes winners Asgard, Honey Belle, Chiming and Son Of Cyrus, as well as 11 other foals, who between them won 91 races. This is the family of the current Melody Belle who descends from Honey Belle.

The first Melody Belle (by Taipan II [USA]) descends from the Bella Rosa line of Belle Fox, through her dam Belle of Ascot (Summertime[GB]- Bella Rosa) a full sister to probably the most famous member of the family the Champion mare, Star Belle.

Melody Belle won 10 races including the then Group Three New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders' Stakes at Te Aroha, and she went on to be the Grandam of the champion two-year-old Lord Ted.

Her illustrious relation Star Belle won a race at two and was the champion three-year-old of her year. In that season in six months she won 10 races from 18 starts including the New Zealand Oaks and the Great Northern and Wellington Derbies and finally the St Leger. At four she won the Liston, Underwood and Craiglee Stakes in Melbourne, and she went on to have a successful stud career producing five winners including the successful sire Lord Waverley(Imposing[AUS]), and the dams of the champion filly Tri Belle and the Group One performer Wonder Dancer who was also successful at stud.

Other Group One descendants from 'Mum's family' include the Group One winners Aerosmith, and Belle du Jour plus dozens of other Stakes performers including Tennessee Belle, Goldschatz, Kazkah Belle, Mary Lavelle, Belle de Chine, Kreisler Magic, Postmans Daughter and Annie Higgins who Leicester raced and named after her mother.

"It's such a thrill to get another Stakes winner, it's a family that has kept producing winners the whole time. It's always popping up with winners. I can recall Steve Brem telling me that around the turn of the century when he was working for Gai Waterhouse that four of the best performers in Sydney were descendants from the Belle family," she added.

"They included champion two-year-old Dance Hero(Danzero[AUS]-GypsyDancer), Grand Armee(Hennessy[USA]-Tambour[AUS]) and Winning Belle(Zabeel-Kirin Belle) who were trained by Gai, and descended from Belle Time, and the Golden Slipper winner Belle du Jour who was trained by Clarry Connors".

"Horses have played a major part in our family. The kids Maryanne, Dianna and Robert think I'm more attached to my horses than them, but I love them all equally, and now they are taking more of an interest in them".

"Dianna is racing Contessa Belle with me at the moment, she won at Rotorua recently, and Melaka Belle was raced on lease by my son Robert and Maryanne," she enthused.

When she and her late husband Nelson retired from their Manawatu farm to Taupo many years ago, Leicester moved her horses to Haunui Farm. Now, she resides in Auckland where she went to college and lived as a young woman, and is enjoying being near her horses and grandchildren.

This season she mated 11 mares, all from the Belle family or from the Boardwalk Angel family she bought into in 1993.

"I thought I needed another family, and I had my eye on Boardwalk Angel. I bought her from the Holmes A Court dispersal sale. I just loved her; I had sold some fillies for good money at the sales so I decided to buy her. She produced Coogee Walk, and it's been another great family for me".

"Boardwalk Angel (Bletchingly[AUS]-Elegant Walk[AUS]) was the winner of the Group One Goodwood Handicap, and she was in foal to Success Express[USA]) when I bought her. That foal was Coogee Walk the winner of the Group One Railway Handicap who in turn is a Stakes producer as the dam of Activation (Zabeel) the winner of nine races including the Group Three MRC Coongy Handicap. Boardwalk Angel is also the dam of the Listed winner The Big Ask (Bigstone),and the Stakes placed Flying West (Flying Spur[AUS])."

"She is also the third dam of the Stakes winners Mr Tipsy and Distill and Stakes placed winners Blinding and Fame Seeker. I sold a half-brother by Showcasing(GB) to Blinding and Fame Seeker at the Select sale to Alan Sharrock for $47,500."

With fillies of the calibre of Melody Belle, and the two lovely yearlings that sold at Karaka, it seems likely that "Belle Family" will go on producing Stakes winners for ever more. - Michelle Saba