Time called on Sydney campaign for Melody Belle

Star Kiwi mare Melody Belle (NZ) (Commands) is returning home after finishing an inconclusive 11th in Saturday’s Gr.1 Winx Stakes (1400m) after enduring a troubled passage.

While the second-up run failed to provide a true guide as to how the Jamie Richards-trained mare has returned, the 34-strong syndicate that race the dual New Zealand Horse of the Year are keen to enjoy their pride and joy in the flesh as opposed to watching her on TV from afar.

“She’s booked to come home on Sunday,” Fortuna Syndications Director John Galvin said.

“We actually think she’s going quite well, it’s just that her first-up run (when sixth in the Missile Stakes) was her standard first-up run and obviously she had no luck on Saturday.

“She got into a nice spot and then one of the other horses Con Te Partiro came across her and she got shuffled back and then no gaps opened for her at any stage. But she was quite strong to the line.”

The ten-time Group One winner was on a path towards the Gr.1 Empire Rose Stakes (1600m) at Flemington, a race she won last year before finishing second in the Gr.1 Mackinnon Stakes (2000m) but with several logistical hoops to jump through and uncertainties around the Victorian COVID-19 outbreak, Melody Belle is now likely to race in New Zealand through the spring and summer.

“She’s had seven runs over there without greeting the judge and our ownership team back here in New Zealand are quite frustrated because they can’t go to the races and there’s some nice targets for her here,” Galvin said.  

“We thought it’d be better to take the uncertainty out of it, pull the pin on her spring campaign in Australia, bring her back here and aim her at some of the spring and summer targets. If she goes well, we can look at Australia in autumn and look at the All Star Mile and races like that.”

Group One races at Hawke’s Bay including the Gr.1 Windsor Park Plate (1600m) and Gr.1 Livamol Classic (2040m) could be considered for the mare, who is likely in her final season of racing.

“She’s not nominated but there is a late nomination fee option for her,” Galvin said.

“The first race (Gr.1 Tarzino Trophy, 1400m on September 19) will probably come up a bit early given that she’s got to come home from Australia.

“We haven’t ruled out the last two completely and there’s a couple of nice targets for her later in the year in the Captain Cook Stakes (Gr.1, 1600m) and the Zabeel Classic (Gr.1, 2000m). She hasn’t raced in those races before.

“But Hawkes Bay is still on the radar and we’ll make a decision on that once she gets back and Jamie gets to look at her, he hasn’t seen her since the All Star Mile on March 14. Everything is on the table.”

Melody Belle was purchased for $57,500 as a yearling at Karaka by Te Akau’s David Ellis and she has won $3.4 million in prizemoney, while the mare will have a residual value in the millions at the end of her racing career.

“I have had an amazing response from the syndicate members about this decision,” Galvin said. “I have been inundated with positive comments with people saying they can’t wait to see her and catch up with all of the crew. “The money side is not so important. The horse doesn’t owe us anything and the fact that she is racing in Group One races worth $200,000 as opposed to $1 million over there is not the most important factor to the members of the syndicate. We just can’t wait to see her.”

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