Leaving a couple of their star gallopers over in New South Wales to spell after their autumn campaigns is proving to be a masterstroke by Te Akau principal David Ellis.
The stable’s travelling foreman Ashley Handley also stayed in Australia to oversee the pair and her presence is proving to be invaluable for trainer Jamie Richards, with border restrictions ruling out any travel plans for the young horseman.
“David Ellis made the decision after the (Sydney Autumn) carnival to leave the horses there and Ashley Handley, who works for us, took a bit of a break and she stayed over there and welcomed the horses back in after they’d spent six weeks in the paddock,” Richards said.
“We’re really glad that we did that because they’re coming up well.”
Originally earmarked to begin her spring campaign in the Gr.1 Winx Stakes (1400m), Melody Belle (NZ) (Commands) is now set to tackle the Gr.2 Missile Stakes (1200m) first-up, with the Queen of New Zealand’s turf notoriously needing the hit-out.
“She’s in good shape, she’s coming along well,” Richards said.
“She will trial at Randwick on the 28th (of July) and then she’ll run in the Missile first and then she’ll run in the Winx a couple of weeks later.
“She’s a mare that as she’s got older she’s needed a run so we’ve been very mindful of that.
“We’re pretty keen to have her ready to rock and roll early because I think quite a few of the nicer middle-distance horses will be resuming in the Winx Stakes and might be a little bit vulnerable fitness-wise, that’s what we’re hoping anyway.
“By having her fit and ready to go early and running in the Missile, hopefully she’s really ready to crank up in the Winx Stakes.”
It’s a method that has historically worked well for the multiple Group One winner.
“Last spring she was just a little bit plain first-up over 1200m,” Richards said. “She then came out and won first-up over 1400m at Hawke’s Bay and then put a very good streak together. That’s the sort of pattern we’re trying to replicate this spring.”
Richards said stablemate Probabeel (NZ) (Savabeel) is a little bit behind Melody Belle in her preparation, but she too is being set for a trial later this month.
“She’s in good shape, we’re pleased with how she’s coming along,” Richards said.
“She gets a little bit hairy over the winter so we’ve clipped her out and it has taken a little while to brighten up in the coat, but she’s getting there.
“She’s a couple of weeks behind Melody Belle. She has done the same amount of work but we are just trying to stay away from the weight-for-age races with her initially.
“She’ll trial on the 28th (of July) and then a couple of weeks again after that and she’ll run first-up on the 22nd (of August) in one of those quality handicaps on that day.”
Meanwhile, Richards said Te Akau Shark (NZ) (Rip Van Winkle) is recuperating from his eye operation and he will return to New Zealand next month.
“He’s just picked up a bit of a bug after his eye surgery, which has held him up a little bit,” he said. “He is improving now, he’s going to need a bit of time for everything to settle down. “He’s going to have a month in New South Wales and then he’ll come back to Te Akau for a good break and hopefully we can see him racing later in the summer and hopefully back to Sydney in the autumn, all going well.”