Team Te Akau Racing and Fortuna Bloodstock combined for their greatest victory when Melody Belle blitzed a good-quality field in the Karaka Million (1200m) at Ellerslie yesterday.
The 2-year-old Commands filly was absent from most pre-race discussions, despite an eye-catching debut victory followed by a meritorious third behind the well-fancied Gift Of Power in stakes company at Trentham. Allowed to start at odds of better than $30 on the tote, the filly defied her detractors with a comprehensive performance that left little room for excuses from the beaten brigade.
Ridden by Opie Bosson the filly jumped well from an inside draw to dispute the early speed before being eased into a stalking position on the outer. With the pace easing near the 600m mark a number of back runners, including the well-fancied Padraig and eventual runner-up Hasahalo, found themselves in trouble but not Bosson who eased into the clear to make a sharp challenge at the top of the straight.
It was obvious then he had plenty of petrol left in the tank as Melody Belle sprinted sharply to establish a handy advantage, which she maintained to the line to stop the clock in 1:10.95 for the 1200m journey. Both Hasahalo and race favourite Felton Road chased hard but neither could bridge the margin and had to settle for the minor placings.
A $57,500 purchase by David Ellis from last year's Premier Yearling sale at Karaka on behalf of Fortuna Bloodstock, principal John Galvin was set the task of finding owners for her. Galvin has enjoyed plenty of success with the Te Akau team and through a mix of existing and new clients formed the Fortuna Melody Belle Syndicate.
Most were on hand to welcome their pride-and-joy into the winner's enclosure, where Galvin was left a little lost for words with the significance of the win.
"This is special as it is a wonderful race to win," he said.
"It's the third time we've had a Fortuna runner in the race. The other two ran down the track so this is third time lucky.
"The syndicate is made up of a lot of existing Fortuna clients who have been in other horses along with some brand newbies. It's a great thrill for them, to not only have a runner in the race but to get the win."
Co-trainer Jamie Richards was all smiles as he accepted congratulations along with training partner Stephen Autridge after the race.
"It's a huge buzz," he exclaimed.
Volpe Veloce went to another level when she kept her unbeaten record intact at the expense of small, but select field of 3-year-olds.
The daughter of Foxwedge took on a hot line-up of colts and geldings in the Karaka 3YO Mile and she put them away with a typically gallant performance.
Volpe Veloce's previous six wins included the Eight Carat Classic, but this was her sternest test and she stepped up to the plate to down Heroic Valour and Jon Snow.
"Every time she puts in. I don't know how good she is, she just keeps improving all the time," trainer Graham Richardson said.
Volpe Veloce settled three back and one off the fence under Michael Coleman, who was deputising for the suspended Johnathan Parkes.
"I was feeling like I was in the hot seat in probably her toughest test," Coleman said. "She was a bit flat-footed coming off the corner, but from the 300 she really wound into it."
What the jockeys said
: Opie Bosson: She jumped well and had a perfect run in behind them - always travelling well. I couldn't believe how well she was travelling into the straight. She just kept kicking.
Hasahalo: Blake Shinn: It was a great run - she hit the line strongly. The tempo really cost us from where we were in the running.
Felton Road: Leith Innes: He jumped well from gate 1; he did get a little fired up. We got on the winner's back but it just exploded away from us.
Princess Rihanna: Craig Williams: I was really happy with her run. She was well prepared for the race. She still has a lot of natural improvement.
Star Treasure: Mark Du Plessis: It was a great run. We just got a little hampered in the straight, we probably could've run 4th but finished off well.
Padraig: Hugh Bowman: They just went too slow for us. No excuses but he is a nice horse in the making.
Oscar Eight: Michael McNab: He run really well from the draw. He's only little but he gave everything and I was really happy with him.
Sophie's Choice: Danielle Johnson: Super honest run from her. She drew the outside and I opted to go back and ride for luck. We didn't get that into the straight and its probably cost us running in the first three.
Dijon Bleu: Kelly McCulloch: She is just a little weak.
Gift Of Power: Craig Grylls: We led them up easily enough. She just didn't find a kick like she normally does.
Waldorf: Jason Waddell: Just needed it a little softer.
Ameridon: Robert Thompson: He wasn't in the race at all.
Global Thinking: Mathew Cameron: Yeah, she was definitely outclassed.
Te Amo: Jay Ford: She was disappointing. She was gone a long way out.
- NZ Racing Desk