New Zealand mare Melody Belle (NZ) adds another Group 1

Outstanding race-mare Melody Belle (NZ) capped a wonderful season when she beat a quality field in the NZ$200,000, Group 1 Bonecrusher New Zealand Stakes (2000m) at Ellerslie on Saturday, March 10th.

The victory made it Group 1 victory number five in a season that has seen the Commands four-year-old win six of her eight starts and over NZ$700,000 in prizemoney.

The victory also allowed regular rider Opie Bosson to establish a new record of 63 Group One wins by a New Zealand rider after he equalled former record-holder Lance O’Sullivan with victory on Yourdeel in the Sistema Stakes (1200m) one race earlier.

Arguably this victory is the best of an action-packed season for the Jamie Richards-trained mare as she defeated a field that included seven other Group 1 winners.

The Fortuna Melody Belle Syndicate-owned runner had to do it the hard way as she looped the field with second favourite Danzdanzdance before they set down to a two-horse war for the length of the Ellerslie home-straight.

Finding something extra in the last 50m, Melody Belle stuck her neck in front to defeat a game Danzdanzdance with Rondinella finishing a promising third at her first attempt in elite company.

“She goes to the paddock now, hopefully as the horse of the year," said trainer Jamie Richards.

“She will have a nice break and will be back in on the 1st of May. We will try to take the same route as we did last spring but hopefully, we might go to Melbourne for a bit of a look around as well.

“It (the Cox Plate) has got to be the target as hopefully the mare of the world (Winx) might be retired by then which would make things easier.”

Runner-up Danzdanzdance (NZ) pleased co-trainer Chris Gibbs who confirmed the Australian plans for his charge were still on.

“We’re very proud of her as it was a huge run.” He said.

“Congratulations to Jamie Richards and Melody Belle as we had her headed at the 150m and she kicked back. We will see how she comes through this week but the plans to go to Australia are at the top of our list.”

Also at Ellersie on Saturday trainer Bill Thurlow and his gallant mare Glory Days dominated the NZ$500,000, Group 1 Auckland Cup (3200m) at Ellerslie on Saturday.

The Red Giant six-year-old had provided Thurlow and her owners with their biggest win when successful in the Group 2 Avondale Cup (2400m) at her last start, but surpassed that thrill with another commanding performance in the iconic Ellerslie two-miler.

Expertly handled by last season’s leading jockey Sam Collett, Glory Days was true to her normal racing pattern as she settled last in the early stages before looping the field at the 600m mark.

Glory Days went clear and never looked like being caught as she relished the heavy underfoot conditions to win by two lengths from last year’s runner-up, Five To Midnight (NZ) with Blue Breeze (NZ) just a nose back in third.

Collett was trying hard to hold back the tears as she celebrated the first Group One victory of her career.

“I’ve been trying to keep up with mum and dad so to get this is great as I know they quinellaed the race in 1991,” she said.

Collet is the daughter of Jim Collett and Trudy Thornton who fought out the 1991 Cup on Star Harvest and Shugar respectively.

“It’s just unbelievable as I don’t know what to say, but I think the horse has said it all really,” said Thurlow.

Thurlow will now give Glory Days a few days spelling before deciding on where to next with a lightning trip to Australia to contest the Group 1 Sydney Cup (3200m) at Randwick a distinct possibility.

With the victory Glory Days took her career record to ten wins from 24 starts and over NZ$635,000 in stakes-earnings.