Each year the National Yearling Sales holds plenty of interest for Marie Leicester, but this time there’s more happening for her both before and after she attends Karaka.
The successful Auckland owner-breeder is a regular vendor at the New Zealand Bloodstock National Yearling Sales and her four-strong draft at Karaka will include a cracking Not A Single Doubt – Meleka Belle filly (Lot 371), whose profile could be boosted on New Year’s Day.
The filly is a half-sister to last season’s NZ Champion Two-Year-Old Melody Belle, who is a leading candidate for the Gr.1 Sistema Railway (1200m) at Ellerslie. Melody Belle was bred by Leicester from the highly successful Belle family established by her parents, James and Annie Sarten.
After the sales and into February Leicester will do her final duties as a director of the NZ Racing Hall of Fame with the biennial function set to be staged at the SKYCITY Hamilton on Friday, February 9.
“I’ve been involved for 12 years, since the outset, and thoroughly enjoyed my time with the Hall Of Fame, but I feel it’s time I stood down,” she said.
“I felt when we started if we didn’t do something a lot of history would be lost. There is such wonderful history in New Zealand racing and it’s been wonderful learning about the early horses and early administrators. I heard Dad talking of some of them when I was growing up and some I didn’t know.”
Leicester still clearly remembers the pressure in getting the inaugural NZ Racing Hall of Fame dinner off the ground at Ellerslie in March 2006. “We got by that first year by the skin of our teeth,” she said.
Of the 66 current Hall of Fame inductees, Foxbridge (inducted in 2008) and Seton Otway (2016) are special to Leicester.
“It was with Foxbridge and Seton Otway that the whole Belle family started for my family,” she said. “I have the original receipt of the 37 pounds Dad paid to Mr Otway for that first service to Foxbridge framed and hanging in my home.”
James Sarten borrowed the mare Belle Star from New Plymouth butcher George Tremlett and bred Belle Fox. “Belle Rosa became known as Mum’s line while the Belle Time line was Dad’s family. They were both from Belle Fox,” Leicester said.
Leicester grew up enjoying the Belle success. “I look at the trophies here and remember the days they won, horses like Star Belle and Honey Belle,” Leicester said. “There are so many great memories.”
Belle Fox’s second foal, Supreme Court, won the 1956 Railway Handicap and memories of that day were rekindled for Leicester after she won the 1998 Railway Handicap with Coogee Walk, a mare she bred and raced after buying her dam, Boardwalk Angel, in a Trelawney Stud dispersal sale.
Now 20 years after Coogee Walk’s major win, Melody Belle will be attempting to give Leicester her third Railway highlight, even though she sold her at the 2016 Premier Yearling Sale at Karaka.
“You’ve sold them but they are still your babies,” she said. “It was your idea for the mating and you watched them grow so you never lose interest in them.”
Bought by David Ellis for $57,500 and raced by Fortuna Melody Belle Syndicate, Melody Belle won the Karaka Million (1200m), Gr.1 Courtesy Ford Manawatu Sires Produce Stakes (1400m) and Gr.2 Queensland Sires’ Produce Stakes (1400m) within three starts last season and she resumed with a solid third behind Volpe Veloce at Ellerslie recently.
Leicester served nine years as president of the Taupo Racing Club after her and her husband, Nelson, shifted north from their Feilding sheep farm to Taupo in 1998. Since her husband’s death in 2016, Leicester has been living in Remuera and having closer contact with her horses at Haunui Farm.
“I’ve got 10 broodmares and most of them are from the Belle line,” she said. “I’ve had nine foals this year and I’ve got four yearlings for the sales.”
As well as Melody Belle’s half-sister, Leicester’s Karaka line-up in the Haunui Farm draft consists of colts by Savabeel from Annie Higgins, Showcasing from Tsarina Belle and Dundeel from Belle Fleur.
”I’d be bored to tears if I didn’t have my horses,” she said. – NZ Racing Desk.