Melody Belle and Opie Bosson after winning the Empire Rose Stakes (Image: Racing Photos)
Jamie Richards has been on the ride of his life in Australia this spring and the young Matamata trainer is hoping New Zealand's darling of the turf, Melody Belle, can cap it off in style at Flemington on Saturday.
The reigning New Zealand Horse of the Year will line up in the Group 1 Seppelt Mackinnon Stakes (2000m) at the site of her heroics in the G1 TAB Empire Rose Stakes (1600m) last weekend.
"She broke the pattern of the day," Richards said of the win. "She came from off the speed and quickened well."
It was one of the biggest moments in Richards' fledgling career and he hopes that G1 feeling will return on Saturday.
"It was a big thrill on Saturday," he said. "Gingernuts won the Rosehill Guineas in Australia when I was training with Steve (Autridge), but to go to Melbourne in the spring on arguably the biggest day of the year was very exciting and I was very pleased that she could put it all together."
The TAB Empire Rose Stakes victory gave Richards, Te Akau principal David Ellis and Fortuna Syndications manager John Galvin the confidence to press on to the Seppelt Mackinnon Stakes rather than the G2 TAB Matriarch Stakes (2000m) on Saturday.
"There's a big difference in the prizemoney," he said. "It's very hard to fault her form and we think she deserves an opportunity to have a go at the best of them."
Melody Belle will be vying to record her 11th G1 victory, and fifth in a row, in the 2000-metre feature, but she will need to overcome barrier 15 in the 16-horse field.
It is not the first time Richards has been met with such a hurdle this spring. Te Akau Shark was dealt the outside barrier in the Cox Plate (2040m), but a gun ride by leading New Zealand hoop Opie Bosson resulted in a game third placing.
"We are going to need a little bit of luck with the way the barriers have come out, but hopefully there is good tempo in the race and we can get back a little bit, where hopefully she can finish off as strongly as she did last Saturday," Richards said.
He has been happy with the way Melody Belle has pulled up after Saturday's assignment and he will fly out on Wednesday night to watch her last piece of work before Saturday.
"She has done well, we have been pleased with her," Richards said. "She has eaten reasonably well.
"We haven't done too much with her. She has been to the beach a couple of times and did a little bit of pace work.
"I'm going to go over tonight, she is going to do a bit of three-quarter work in the morning and I think that should be all she needs."
Melody Belle is unbeaten over 2000m and Richards is hoping to keep that record intact on Saturday.
"In the Livamol (2040m), she probably didn't beat much that day, but at Ellerslie in the autumn when she beat Danzdanzdance on a heavy track in the Bonecrusher (2000m) certainly suggested that she has got a bit of stamina and she can handle the trip. The 2000m doesn't look to worry her," he said.
Melody Belle and Danzdanzdance, who is now trained by Chris Waller in Sydney, could meet again on Saturday, however, being the first emergency, Danzdanzdance requires a scratching to make the field.
While Melody Belle has proven herself at elite level in Australia, the $57,500 Karaka yearling sale purchase by Ellis is set to return to Australian shores next year in a bid to chase more G1 spoils.
"She will be in the spelling paddock on Monday and she will be coming back to New Zealand for a break," Richards said. "Hopefully we can crank her up in the autumn and get her back over to Australia."