Melody Belle looking to complete unfinished business for Te Akau Racing


‘‘He is king of the mountain down there at Te Akau watching over everything there that is going on,’’ Richards said. ‘‘Yeah [there is] unfinished business. Hopefully we can get the job done.’’

Left to complete that unfinished business in the Mackinnon Stakes for Te Akau Racing is one of the fastest finishers in racing right now, the five-year-old mare Melody Belle.

Melody Belle has won seven group 1s in 2019, more than any other horse in the world, and has won 10 group 1s in her 28 starts.

But it wasn’t until she rattled home to win the Empire Rose Stakes on Derby day that everyone began to believe the record matched her talent. ‘‘To bring her over here and be competitive at Flemington on Derby Day, that is really special,’’ Richards said.

If she can beat the best at weight-for-age then she will long be remembered on these shores as one of the best from New Zealand.

Although the favourite in the race, Richards is smart enough to not get carried away.

It’s the first time Melody Belle has raced twice within seven days and she has once again drawn out wide starting from barrier 16.

‘‘You would almost think [the draw] was rigged, wouldn’t you?’’ Richards joked.

‘‘We remain open minded … in those sorts of races they are going to go along a bit and Opie [Bosson] is riding in a purple patch of form so we will see how it plays out.

‘‘I know we are favourite but we have got a lot of respect for the opposition as well.’’

Runner-up in the Empire Rose was last year’s VRC Oaks winner Aristia which was allowed to roll along a little too quickly before being left a sitting duck at the finish, while the old-timer Hartnell is searching for a fairytale farewell, the Japanese-trained Kluger and the tough Ballydoyle mare Magic Wand are formidable opposition.

Aristia’s trainer Simon Zahra said he thought their mare could ‘‘mix it with the best of them’’ while Kluger’s rider Kerrin McEvoy rated the horse his best each way chance of the day despite his disappointing Cox Plate run.

Kluger had laser surgery on his throat soon after that race when a problem was identified and McEvoy felt good on his back out at Werribee on Thursday.

‘‘I remember when he whizzed up on the inside and ran Winx to a length and a half,’’ McEvoy said.

No wonder Richards is wary of the opposition with all New Zealanders knowing after recent cricket and rugby union world cup results that anything can happen in sport.

Melody Belle will be ready however, having spent Sunday and Wednesday at Altona beach with a light gallop on the grass at Flemington topping her off.

Her soundness is legendary as is her honesty having won seven of her past eight starts.

‘‘She is just so genuine. She never runs a bad race, gives 110 per cent and just a genuine racehorse,’’ Richards said.

‘‘As long as she can hold her form I will be very happy. If she improves, watch out.’’

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