Glamour galloper Melody Belle has added the New Zealand Horse of the Year title to her growing list of achievements.
The Matamata mare was an almost unanimous choice for Horse of the Year, which was announced at the New Zealand Thoroughbred Horse of the Year Awards, in Auckland on Sunday night.
Of the 61 votes cast for Horse of the Year, Melody Belle received 59, with one apiece for stablemate Te Akau Shark and Bostonian, who was a dual Group I winner in Australia.
Melody Belle was also named Champion Sprinter-Miler for the 2018-19 season and was narrowly beaten by Danzdanzdance in the middle-distance category.
Yourdeel, a stablemate of Melody Belle, was named Champion Two-Year-Old, with Madison County (three-year-old), Gory Days (stayer) and Jackfrost (Jumper) taking the other horse categories.
Opie Bosson, who won six Group I races, headed off premiership winner Lisa Allpress by four votes in a tight battle for Champion Jockey. It was a fifth win for Bosson and came 21 years after his first.
Champion trainer Murray Baker, who had trained the previous five Horse of the Year winners, received the prestigious Contribution to Racing award. Baker has had a long and successful career and has won more Group I races in Australia than any other New Zealand trainer.
Baker and his training partner Andrew Forsman have won almost 600 races over the past five seasons and set new benchmarks in terms of wins, stake earnings and black-type wins. They have won 105 back type races over that period, including 78 Group races, with 23 at Group I level. The stable’s stake earnings for the period have topped $25 million.
Melody Belle broke the recent pattern by earning the Horse of the Year title without leaving the country. The previous eight Horse of the Year winners had underlined their credentials by recording at least one Group I victory in Australia during the season.
However, Melody Belle presented an irresistible case with a near faultless four-year-old campaign, which produced six Group wins from eight starts, ranging in distance from 1200m to 2000m.
She was a dominant force at weight-for-age level, with six wins from six weight-for-age outings, including a record five Group I wins. The Group race structure has been operating in New Zealand since the 1977-78 season and Melody Belle is the first horse to win five Group I races in a single New Zealand season.
She won the first two legs of the Hawke’s Bay Triple Crown in the spring and maintained her form in the latter half of the season, capping her campaign by beating the Zabeel Classic winner Danzdanzdance in the 2000m Bonecrusher Stakes, which was Melody Belle’s first race past 1600m.
No other New Zealand-trained horse won more than two Group I races in the 2018-19 season and only Bostonian, who recorded his sprint double in Brisbane, was able to record a Group I win in Australia.
Melody Belle has already made a mark in the new season, with a stunning win in the Group I Tarzino Trophy at Hastings on August 31 and looks to be a real chance of becoming the first horse to win the Hastings Triple Crown.
The Commands mare, who was bred by veteran breeder Marie Leicester, is trained by Jamie Richards and raced by the Fortuna Melody Belle Syndicate, which is managed by syndicator John Galvin. The syndicate has 37 shareholders.
Melody Belle was a $57,500 yearling buy and her second Tarzino win took her career earnings to $1.75 million.
Danzdanzdance shaded Melody Belle by two votes in the middle-distance category. In addition to winning the Zabeel Classic and being runner-up in the Bonecrusher Stakes, Danzdanzdance was placed in the Group I Ranvet Stakes in Sydney and the Livamol Classic at Hastings She was also a Group I winner at 1600m, in the Captain Cook Stakes.
Yourdeel, a dual Group I winner, comfortably headed off stablemate Probabeel for the two-year-old title, a trophy won by Melody Belle in 2017.
Madison County, another dual Group I winner and runner-up in the Australian Derby, gained all bar one of the votes cast in the three-year-old category and Auckland Cup winner Glory Days, who is a potential Melbourne Cup contender this spring, was an almost unanimous choice for Champion Stayer.
Madison County is prepared at Cambridge by Murray Baker and his training partner Andrew Forsman, who were named Trainers of the Year for the third successive year and the fourth time in the last five years.
Wellington owner Lib Petagna, who races under the JML Bloodstock banner, was voted Owner of the Year for the fourth successive year. Petagna had 14 winners or stakes-placed horses, from 26 runners, including two Group I winners and three group placegetters.
He had a 50 percent share in New Zealand Derby winner Crown Prosecutor and raced NZ Breeders’ Stakes winner Nicoletta on his own.
The deeds of champion Hong Kong galloper Beauty Generation were reflected in the two major breeding awards. Nearco Stud, which bred Beauty Generation, was Breeder of the Year and Beauty Generation’s dam, Stylish Bel, was Broodmare of the Year.
Beauty Generation, a son of Road To Rock, was unbeaten in eight starts in Hong Kong in the 2018-19 season and is third-equal in the 2019 world thoroughbred rankings.
Nearco Stud, which is owned by South Island businessman Greg Tomlinson, was also represented by the Group II winner Belle du Nord and the Group III winner Miss Federer.
2019 NEW ZEALAND THOROUGHBRED HORSE OF THE YEAR AWARDS
Twenty-five awards were presented at the 2019 New Zealand Thoroughbred Horse of the Year Awards dinner in Auckland on Sunday night.
Horse of the Year: Melody Belle (59 votes)
Also: Bostonian (1), Te Akau Shark (1).
NZTR Award for Outstanding Contribution to Racing: Murray Baker.
Champion Two-Year-Old: Yourdeel (55).
Other finalists: Probabeel (9), Aotea Lad, Aretha.
Champion Three-Year-Old - sponsored by FastTrack Insurance: Madison County (58).
Other finalists: Media Sensation (1), Crown Prosecutor, Sentimental Miss, Surely Sacred.
Champion Sprinter-Miler (up to 1600m) - sponsored by Majestic Horse Floats: Melody Belle (55).
Other finalists: Bostonian (8), Enzo’s Lad, Shadows Cast, Te Akau Shark.
Champion Middle-Distance Horse (1601m-2200m): Danzdanzdance (32).
Other finalists: Melody Belle (30), Savvy Coup (2), On The Rocks.
Champion Stayer (2201m +): Glory Days (62).
Other finalists: Rondinella (1), Five To Midnight.
Champion Jumper: Jackfrost (51).
Other finalists: Shamal (6), Gagarin (2), Perry Mason (2), Chocolate Fish (1).
Trainer of the Year - sponsored by Dunstan: Murray Baker & Andrew Forsman (50).
Other finalists: Jamie Richards (12).
Jockey of the Year: Opie Bosson (29).
Other finalists: Lisa Allpress (25), Matthew Cameron (4), Johnathan Parkes (1).
Jumps Jockey of the Year: Aaron Kuru (58).
Other finalists: Buddy Lammas (4), Shaun Phelan.
Owner of the Year – sponsored by TAB: JML Bloodstock (24).
Other finalists: China Horse Club Racing (12), Archer Equine Investments (8), Brendan and Jo Lindsay Partnership (8), Sir Peter Vela (3), NZ Thoroughbred Holdings (1), Raffles Dancers (1), Kevin Hickman, Kamada Racing and Bloodstock, Kelvin Tyler.
New Zealand Strapper of the Year – sponsored by Chris Waller Racing: Brittany Moore (employed by Pitman Racing).
NZTR Award for Contribution to Media, Digital & Content: Isola Racing Stables.
Other finalists: Boys Get Paid, Des Coppins, Mark Nowell, Aidan Rodley, Paul Vettise.
Breeder of the Year: Nearco Stud (Breeder of Beauty Generation, Belle du Nord and Miss Federer).
Other finalists: Archer Equine, Garry Chittick and Waikato Stud and partners, WJ Gleeson and WJ Bloodstock, Don Goodwin.
Eight Carat Broodmare of the Year – sponsored by Arion Pedigrees: Stylish Bel (dam of Beauty Generation).
Other finalists: Meleka Belle, Red Delicious.
Trainers’ Premiership: Murray Baker & Andrew Forsman.
Jockeys’ Premiership: Lisa Allpress.
Apprentice Jockeys’ Premiership: Ryan Elliot.
Owners’ Premiership: Sir Peter Vela.
Newcomer to Training – sponsored by gavelhouse.com: Jamie Richards.
Grosvenor Award (stallion earnings in NZ): Savabeel.
Dewar Stallion Trophy: (stallion earnings in New Zealand and Australia): Savabeel.
Centaine Award: (stallion earnings worldwide): Savabeel.
New Zealand Bloodstock Filly of the Year: Imelda Mary and Queen Of Diamonds.