By Ray Hickson
Melody Belle’s career in the homeland may be over but trainer Jamie Richards has some unfinished business with the star mare in Sydney.
Any horse that has won 14 Group 1 races commands high praise but the one thing missing from Melody Belle’s CV is a Sydney major and Richards believes Saturday’s Group 1 $1.5m Kia Tancred Stakes (2400m) is the right race to correct that omission.
And the statistic that says she’s yet to fill a place in the Harbour City after six attempts.
“She’s been to Sydney a couple of times and hasn’t been able to get the job done and win a Group 1 so it’s still something we’re trying to achieve,’’ Richards said.
“She’s run really well in a Doncaster, in a Queen Elizabeth, she has got good form in Sydney without having won one.”
The six-year-old eclisped Sunline's New Zealand record of 13 Group 1s when she collected her 14th in claiming the Bonecrusher Stakes (2000m) on March 13, with her only Australian major coming in the Empire Rose Stakes in Melbourne in 2019.
Four of those Group 1s have come since Melody Belle last raced in Sydney at the start of her spring preparation in August last year. She raced twice during The Star Championships in 2020 for a gallant fourth in the Doncaster and a sixth in the Queen Elizabeth.
The Tancred will be her 39th start and the first time Richards has asked the mare to stretch out to 2400m.
“We’re looking forward to Saturday, a mile and a half should suit her,’’ he said.
“I think she has been looking for the distance for a little while but we’ve been trying to find the right race for her to try it out. We’re meeting a nice field but a field that doesn’t have horses like Verry Elleegant or Addeybb which is going to be a help to us.
“She wouldn’t have won the Ranvet, I think she’d struggle to win a Queen Elizabeth just with the way that some of the other horses are going. She’s getting to that age now, without being detrimental to her, so I think it is a nice race for her.”
Melody Belle was a $6 chance with TAB on Wednesday in a wide Tancred market.
Richards is adamant the 2400m won’t be a problem for the mare, who is destined to be sold later this year, especially after what he witnessed in the Bonecrusher last start.
“She hasn’t got that turn of foot any more, she grinds a little bit,’’ he said.
“It took Troy Harris a lap to pull her up after Ellerslie and Ellerslie is a big course. To run out the 2000m as strong as she did I think bodes well for her first crack at a mile and a half.”
An impressive Tancred win might tempt Richards to have another shot at the $4m Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m), despite the presence of Verry Elleegant and Addeybb, or she may continue further north.
— TAB Racing (@TAB_Racing) March 13, 2021
Richards will have a strong presence during The Star Championships with Probabeel gearing up for the Group 1 $1m Coolmore Legacy (1600m) on April 17, star filly Amerelinha a starter in the Group 1 $1m Australian Oaks (2400m) if the track is on the better side of soft and Entriviere (Sapphire Stakes) and Sword Of State (Inglis Sires’) also likely arrivals.
Probabeel has been freshened up since her failure in the All Star Mile three weeks ago and Richards said she will trial at Randwick on April 8 having come through a tough run well.
“It’s unfortunate it played out like it did,’’ he said.
“If we had our time again we’d probably scratch her, it was clearly a heavy track by that stage of the day. She had a couple of quiet days on the Mornington Peninsula and travelled up to Sydney in good order.”