Dual New Zealand Horse of the Year Melody Belle has equaled the record of the mighty mare Sunline after completing her 13th career Group One win when taking out the Gr.1 Harcourts Thorndon Mile (1600m) at Trentham.
The Jamie Richards-trained mare was having her first start since finishing a game third in the Gr.1 McKinnon Stakes (2000m) during the Melbourne spring carnival in November but was confidently expected to dispose of her seven rivals after a sparkling run at the Matamata trials earlier in the month.
With regular rider Opie Bosson in the saddle, the six-year-old mare travelled kindly in midfield throughout before moving into contention at the point of the home turn.
Bosson had her idling along nicely as she effortlessly slipped into top gear and took command of the race out in the middle of the track. Despite being hotly challenged by eventual placegetters Sinarahma and Deerfield, Melody Belle had too much class as she cruised home by just over a length at the post.
Richards was all smiles as the appreciative on-course crowd welcomed his charge back to the birdcage with a standing ovation.
“She didn’t win by a big space, but she still got the job done relatively comfortably,” he said.
“The good thing is we know she still has some improvement to come with her fitness.
“I can remember Sunline racing and the race she won in Hong Kong more so than anything else.
“To equal her record is wonderful as she was the mare of the world and while we’ve done it mainly in New Zealand, it is still very good to equal it.
“I’m very proud of her as she has done so much for my career and has flown the flag for all of us,
“She’s a competitor who loves doing her job, so I can’t thank her and everyone involved with her enough.”
Purchased by David Ellis (CNZM) for $57,500 out of the Haunui Farm draft during the 2016 National Yearling Sale, Melody Belle is raced by the Fortuna Melody Belle Syndicate that is managed by John Galvin.
An emotional Bosson had to fight back tears as he described his feelings about one of his favourite horses.
“I got a bit of a shock at the barriers when I was talking to Shaun McKay on The Mitigator, who I thought would make the pace, but he said he was going to ride him back,” Bosson said.
“I wasn’t quite sure what to do then although she jumped well and there wasn’t a lot of speed early, so she got some cover and relaxed beautifully for me.
“She is just unbelievable and is just so special to me.”
Melody Belle has now won 18 of her 36 starts, 13 of those at Group One level and more than $4.1m in prizemoney, with Bosson aboard for nine of those career wins and six Group Ones.
The race was marred when second favourite Rock On Wood went amiss at the 700m and was pulled up. – NZ Racing Desk