Megastar Melody Belle earned two slices of New Zealand racing history on Saturday with another commanding performance in the Gr.1 Livamol Classic (2040m) at Hastings.
She became the first horse to complete Hawke’s Bay’s weight-for-age Triple Crown during the Bostock New Zealand Spring Carnival – the Tarzino Trophy (1400m), Windsor Park Plate (1600m) and Livamol Classic. Eight horses had previously won two of the three.
It was also the ninth Group One win of Melody Belle’s glittering career, which is a new record number of Group One victories in New Zealand. She had previously shared that record with Mufhasa, who won eight in New Zealand and another two in Melbourne.
Five of Melody Belle’s Group One wins came during an all-conquering 2018-19 season, which earned her a near-unanimous vote of Horse of the Year.
The Commands mare, who was bred by Marie Leicester, has begun the 2019-20 season in the same vein, easily defending her titles in the Tarzino Trophy and Windsor Park Plate. She was the $1.30 favourite to make history in Saturday’s Livamol, and she did not disappoint.
Rider Opie Bosson settled her in midfield beside the rail as Mongolian Marshal and Peso went to the front in the early stages. Mauna Kea charged forward to take a clear lead into the back straight, then Peso worked back up alongside him to regain control.
Bosson moved Melody Belle out into clear air with more than 1200 metres to run, and she cruised forward to slide into second place at the top of the home straight.
It was plain sailing from there as Melody Belle swept past a brave Peso, opening up to win by three and a half lengths in front of a delighted Hastings crowd.
“She’s such a darling,” Bosson said. “We got bumped around a little bit in the first half of the race, but I ended up getting her out of trouble and then she just cruised into it. I just love her.
“To win these three Group One races at 1400, 1600 and 2040 metres, it takes an amazing horse and an amazing training effort by Jamie Richards. It’s a big team effort, from David Ellis buying all these lovely horses to all of the great staff involved. I’m just the pilot.”
Emotional members of the Fortuna Melody Belle Syndicate flooded into the winners’ circle after the race, watched by proud manager John Galvin.
“Before the race, I said that we were standing on the crest of history – now we’ve done it,” he said. “It’s an amazing feeling to have completed this very elusive Triple Crown.
“She’s probably the best she’s ever been. She just keeps stepping up. She’s in her fourth season of racing now.
“She’s one in 10,000. She’s the sort of horse you dream about. It was life-changing when she won the Karaka Million (1200m) as a two-year-old. To win nine Group 1 races on top of that is unbelievable.”
Te Akau Racing principal David Ellis, who paid just $57,500 to buy Melody Belle as a yearling at Karaka from the draft of Haunui Farm, was another proud observer.
“It’s the thrill of a lifetime,” he said. “To see her win the Karaka Million at two, then train on each year and get better and better, it’s just so rewarding. This is one of the great days I’ve had on a racetrack. It’s history. It’s a very proud occasion.”
While Melody Belle’s connections will rightly celebrate Saturday’s historic win, attention will soon shift to the mare’s next start, which will be in Australia.
Melody Belle is now rated an $11 chance for the Gr.1 Cox Plate (2040m) in Melbourne on October 26, however connections will be meeting on Monday afternoon to discuss whether the Moonee Valley feature is the right fit for the star mare, with Galvin confirming that a number of Group One races would be considered. – NZ Racing Desk