By Ray Hickson
She may present in the mounting yard minus a little bit of hair but trainer Jamie Richards says star mare Melody Belle is in A1 condition for Saturday’s Group 2 $200,000 Iron Jack Missile Stakes (1200m) at Rosehill.
The 10-time Group 1 winner had to pass an inspection from Racing NSW Chief Veterinary Officer Toby Koenig on Thursday, after Richards reported she’d developed a rash, but was given the all clear.
He said the rash will be of no consequence to her performance first-up but Richards also warns as she has aged she has tended to be less effective fresh.
“I think she is forward enough to be competitive but her record suggests she improves with a run and that’s what we would be expecting from her,’’ he said.
“We'd like to see her run a nice race and hopefully improve for the Winx Stakes then hopefully we might have that fitness edge on some of those top middle distance horses that are resuming.”
The six-year-old was $3.60 Missile favourite with TAB on Thursday and $6 equal favourite with Funstar in the Group 1 Winx Stakes (1400m) on August 22.
It’s worth noting the only time Melody Belle has missed a placing fresh was first-up in her spring preparation, August 17 last year, where she ran fourth in the Group 2 Foxbridge Plate (1200m) in New Zealand.
Melody Belle wins a trial at Kensington on July 31
In the autumn she ran third in the 1400m Futurity Stakes at her first run back.
So with that in mind Richards asked Kerrin McEvoy to ensure ‘Valerie’ was tested out a little in winning her 850m trial on the Kensington track on July 31.
“We wanted to see her do a little bit, being mindful in the past that she’s taken a run,’’ he said.
“So she was out there to do a bit and the way it’s worked out we are where we need to be hopefully.
“She seems to be in good shape, Ashley Handley is over there doing a good job and her and Probabeel are coming up nicely.’’
While her wet track ability in almost unparalleled, with 11 wins from 18 starts, Richards said he wouldn’t like to see a ‘bottomless’ surface for the Missile.
Beyond the Winx Stakes plans for Melody Belle remain in flux, she’ll may stick around for the Group 1 George Main Stakes (1600m) a month later but further into the spring is likely to head south.
Stablemate Probabeel, who also remained in Sydney following the autumn, will have her second trial this preparation at Randwick on Tuesday and is on target to resume on Winx Stakes day in the Group 3 Show County Quality (1200m)
“I thought she trialled nicely, we’re pleased with how she is coming along, she will take improvement,’’ he said.
“Probabeel will stay on the handicap route for now to take advantage of being a four-year-old and not fully exposed.
“David Ellis showed great foresight in leaving them over there and leaving some staff there so it’s worked out well.”
The future for Group 1 winner Te Akau Shark is a trip home to New Zealand later this month as his recovery from eye implant surgery, and a subsequent complication, continues. Richards said he's not sure of what the prognosis is until he arrives home and he certainly won't race this year.