3 October 2019
Photo credit: Trish Dunell
Eight horses have won two legs of the Hawke’s Bay Triple Crown, but none has managed to win all three.
That is expected to change this weekend when glamour galloper Melody Belle tackles the $250,000 Livamol Classic (2040m), the last leg in the Hastings series.
Melody Belle has been a dominant winner of the first two legs – Tarzino Trophy (1400m) and Windsor Park Plate (1600m) – and this week has been as short as $1.30 for Saturday’s feature, even before the final field was declared.
The Matamata mare also won the first two legs last year but had not raced past 1600m at that stage and bypassed the 2018 Livamol. However, she made a successful middle-distance debut last autumn, beating Danzdanzdance in the Group I Bonecrusher Stakes (2000m) at Ellerslie, which encouraged her connections to target the Triple Crown this spring.
Danzdanzdance will not be a rival on Saturday and the only other Group I winners in the 2019 Livamol entries are the New Zealand Derby winner Crown Prosecutor and New Zealand Oaks winner Sentimental Miss.
Crown Prosecutor and Sentimental Miss have both shown that they can stay but between them have managed four wins from 24 starts, while Melody Belle has won 13 of her 23 starts, including eight Group I races.
Vernanme and Mongolian Marshal were rated the main threats to Melody Belle and were the only other Livamol contenders at single figure odds on Tuesday night.
The Hastings Triple Crown was established in 1999 and the eight horses who have won two legs in the same year since are Melody Belle (2018 & 2019), Seachange (2006 & 2007), Kawi (2016), Jimmy Choux (2011), Wall Street (2010), Xcellent (2005), Starcraft (2004) and The Message (2000).
However, Melody Belle will be just the third horse – after Seachange (twice) and Starcraft – to go into the Livamol with a chance of winning the Triple Crown.
Starcraft, who was trained in Australia, was a hot favourite for the $1 million Livamol (Kelt Stakes) in 2004, after stunning performances in the first two legs, but in the words of rider Glen Boss “lost the plot” on Livamol day.
Starcraft was very unsettled, both in the leadup to the race and in the running, and Boss was forced to take the horse to the front 1000m out, in a bid to get him to relax, but with limited success. Starcraft battled on for second but was comfortably beaten by Balmuse.
Starcraft, who had won the Australian Derby the previous autumn, was troubled by a niggling injury that spring and following the Livamol was beaten into the minor placings again in the Caulfield Stakes and Cox Plate.
He showed his true form when tried in the northern hemisphere the following year and was rated the top miler in Europe after recording Group I wins in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes (beating Dubawi) at Newmarket and the Prix du Moulin at Longchamp.
Balmuse’s Livamol win provided trainer Kevin Myers with the richest win of his career. Balmuse won 13 races and was a fine galloper but his Hastings triumph was a career-high point and he won only two other Group races.
Seachange was a wonderful racemare but was vulnerable at 2040m and wilted to third and fourth respectively in her two starts in the Livamol. However, she was virtually in line with the winner at her second attempt, with the margins being half a head, a nose and a nose.
The Cape Cross mare, who raced in The Oaks Stud colours, won 13 of her 19 starts in New Zealand, including seven Group I races. She only twice finished outside the first three in New Zealand and was never further back than fifth.
She was a Group III winner and twice Group I-placed in Australia and ran fourth in the Group I Falmouth Stakes in England, after finishing her career with four starts in the northern hemisphere.
Kawi, another who has won the Tarzino twice, did not contest the 2016 Livamol, despite being successful in the first two legs, with his connections preferring to concentrate on richer opportunities in Perth, over more suitable distances.
Wall Street’s chances of winning the 2010 Triple Crown disappeared when he was beaten in the opening leg, but it could be argued that he has been the closer to claiming the treble than any other horse.
Wall Street was beaten by a nose in the Tarzino (then named the Mudgway Stakes) before comfortably winning the next two legs. He also won the Group I Emirates Stakes in Melbourne that spring and had two more Group I seconds in the autumn.
Jimmy Choux, like Wall Street, had two wins and a second in the Triple Crown. He was runner-up to Mufhasa in the opening leg before winning the next two legs and going on to run second in the Cox Plate.
Xcellent, who had only 13 races in his career, was an exceptional racehorse. He won the 2004 New Zealand Derby at just his third start and at his fourth beat the older horses in the Group I weight-for-age New Zealand Stakes at Ellerslie.
He was resuming as a four-year-old when he came from last to beat 15 rivals in the 2005 Tarzino and bypassed the Windsor Park before comfortably winning the Livamol. Two starts later he ran third, behind Makybe Diva, in the Melbourne Cup.
Xcellent won eight of his nine starts in New Zealand, his sole defeat coming when he was beaten by half a head in the Group I Zabeel Classic.
The Message won the Foxbridge Plate at Te Rapa, as well as the Windsor Park and Livamol, during his spring campaign in 2000, but was unplaced in the Tarzino after being caught wide.
Calm Harbour had no chance of being a Triple Crown winner but deserves an honourable mention for winning both the Tarzino and Livamol in 1993. He had the ability to be a potential Triple Crown winner, but a third leg was not part of the Hastings spring carnival till 1999.
The Windsor Park, originally known as the Hawke’s Bay Challenge Stakes, did not have black-type status when Just Call Me Sir was successful in 1999 but the race was upgraded to Group III the following year.
Though Calm Harbour beat Veandercross and Solvit in the Tarzino and Solvit and Castletown in the Livamol, he did not become a Group I winner in either instance.
The Tarzino, then known as the Russell’s Toshiba T.V. Stakes, had Group III status when Calm Harbour was successful and the Livamol, then named the Kelt Stakes, had been upgraded from Group III to Group II that year.
The Livamol became a Group I race in 1996 and the Tarzino in 2003 – the year after Sunline was successful – and it was 2005 before all three weight-for-age races held Group I status.