Royalzel, ridden by Ben Melham, wins the Taj Rossi Final (Image: Racing Photos)
The COVID-19 outbreak conspired to assemble Ben Melham and Gary Portelli together for further stakes success in two-year-old company at Flemington on Saturday.
Craig Williams was booked to ride Royalzel in the $160,000 Listed Taj Rossi Series Final (1600m) but Racing Victoria's protocols required individuals who had been in South East Queensland, including Eagle Farm for last Saturday's Group 1 Tattersall's Tiara meeting, to isolate for 14 days.
The Racing Victoria ruling on Friday saw Williams, who won last weekend's fillies and mares feature aboard the Michael Moroney-trained Tofane, forfeit the ride to Melham.
Compounding Williams' misery would have been the fact the nine-time Melbourne premiership winner contacted Portelli to encourage him to run Royalzel in the Taj Rossi.
Melham gave thanks to Williams after steering Royalzel to success, settling three back on the fence and pushing into the clear on straightening en route to his comfortable three-length win from Whatafox with Celtic Glory in third.
“I watched his replays and I was very confident that the horse would run well. I did have it in the back of my mind that he’d had a solid first prep," Melham said.
"He’s a beaut little horse though. He’s very straightforward, got a lovely attitude and a good turn-of-foot.
“He feels a little bit brilliant to go much further (in distance) at this stage of his career but who is to say that as he matures, he’s got the natural ability there and Gary knows what he’s doing.
“He’ll certainly be a contender in the spring," Melham added.
Melham has ridden 30 horses trained by Portelli since August 2007 for six wins and six seconds with all victories coming in feature events, including the 2017 Golden Slipper aboard She Will Reign.
MELHAM & PORTELLI'S WINNING COMBINATION
2016 G1 Manikato Stakes – Rebel Dane
2016 Inglis Nursery – She Will Reign
2017 G2 Silver Slipper – She Will Reign
2017 G1 Golden Slipper – She Will Reign
2018 Inglis Sprint – She Will Reign
2021 LR Taj Rossi Series Final – Royalzel
Royalzel, who was withdrawn from last year's Inglis Easter Yearling Sale, is the first foal to race from Group 3 Ken Russell Memorial Classic (1200m) winner Royal Tithe.
Williams had further cause for frustration as Foxy Frida, another of his forfeited mounts, won the $150,000 MSS Security Rivette Series Final (1400m) for three-year-old fillies.
The Andrew Noblet-trained Foxy Frida was a last start series heat winner over the course on June 5 when pouncing from her trailing spot.
The daughter of Foxwedge settled further back in Saturday's 12-horse field with Egan managing to navigate a path through the pack between the 400 to 200-metre mark before edging out Divine Diosa by a short head.
Aidensfield settled behind the leader Star of Uma but raced marginally keen early and was anchored as 60kg topweight, finishing third a further 2.75 lengths away. Star of Uma finished second last, failing to live up to market expectations.
“I think the way she raced today she is looking for a mile plus as well," Egan said of Foxy Frida.
"She did a good job to quicken through those gaps and show a turn-of-foot.
"The way she raced she raced off the bridle and they might (have been a) bit sharp for her but she ended up getting there which is really nice."