Six-time Group One winner Melody Belle will attempt to add a seventh to her record when she lines-up in the Gr.1 Tarzino Trophy (1400m) at Hastings on Saturday.
The Jamie Richards-trained mare won the race last year before going onto win a further four Group One races last season and is all but assured of being crowned New Zealand Horse of the Year for those deeds.
The daughter of Commands put in a solid showing first-up at Te Rapa earlier this month when finishing fourth in the Gr.2 Foxbridge Plate (1200m) behind Saturday’s rival Endless Drama.
Richards was pleased with her efforts and is hoping for a nice draw heading into New Zealand’s first Group One race of the season.
“We’re happy with her and she has worked up well since her good fourth, off the outside gate, in the Foxbridge,” he said.
“If we draw a gate, she should be a nice chance.”
Michael McNab will retain the ride on Melody Belle, with Te Akau’s principal rider Opie Bosson set to miss the meeting with a minor shoulder injury.
At the same meeting Richards will line-up stablemate Equinox, the winner of two from four, in the Listed El Roca – Sir Colin Meads Trophy (1200m).
“He’s in good form and we’re pretty happy with his work and trials,” Richards said. “I think he’s made good progress through the winter and he’s coming up well.”
Meanwhile, further north quality mare Avantage will resume at Ruakaka over 1200m.
Champion New Zealand Two-Year-Old of her year, Avantage boasts a healthy record of seven wins and two placings from nine starts, including victories in the Karaka Million 2YO (1200m), Gr.1 Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes (1400m), Gr.3 Gold Trail Stakes (1200m), and Gr.3 Birthday Card Stakes (1200m).
“We’re happy with her and she should run well fresh,” Richards said. “Although hard to get a line on her given she trialled twice in rain-affected conditions, we are looking forward to getting her up there on good ground.”
Another Karaka Million 2YO (1200m) winner that is nearing a racetrack return is the Brendan and Jo Lindsay-owned Probabeel.
The daughter of Savabeel is in Sydney ahead of what could be a lucrative spring and will kick-off her campaign in the Gr.2 Furious Stakes (1200m) at Randwick on September 7.
“She was a little bit behind in her coat coming out of the winter, so that’s why we wanted to get her over a bit earlier and get some sun on her back,” Richards said.
“She seems to be eating well and we’re happy with her. She’s been there before and will start doing more work later in the week as we build into the Furious, where, unfortunately, she will run into the very good filly Libertini that won on Saturday at Randwick.
“But, we think 1200m is a nice place to kick-off and she should be very competitive when stepping up to 1400m and a mile through the three-year-old fillies Princess Series.”
Exciting galloper Te Akau Shark has also arrived in Sydney and will kick-off his Australian campaign in the Gr.2 Tramway Stakes (1400m) at Randwick on September 7 as a lead-in race to the Gr.1 Epsom Handicap (1600m) at the same course on October 5.
Te Akau Shark, who is part-owned by Cronulla-Sutherland Shark’s captain Paul Gallen, will be ridden by champion jockey James McDonald in the Tramway. – NZ Racing Desk