Otaki galloper Sampson finished strongly to claim the group two City of Palmerston North Awapuni Gold Cup at Awapuni yesterday.

Raced by trainer Howie Mathews' wife Lorraine and friend Janice Street, Sampson settled midfield for jockey Reese Jones and he rounded off determinedly in the straight to beat Five to Midnight, the pacemaker Woodsman and last year's winner Maygrove.

"With the way the track was they were racing right off the rail and it made it a true staying test," Howie Mathews said.

Long on stamina, Sampson has now won nine races and he has also been placed over the ultimate 3200 metre trip with a third placing in last season's group two Wellington Cup.


Meanwhile Melody Belle made the absolute most of her Group One opportunity at Awapuni when the outstanding filly powered to victory to complete a memorable two-year-old double.

Forced to bypass the Sistema Stakes at Ellerslie due to a viral complaint, she followed up her Karaka Million success by claiming major honours in yesterday's Courtesy Ford Manawatu Sires' Produce Stakes.

"She's done nothing but improve in the last couple of weeks," said Stephen Autridge, who trains the juvenile with Jamie Richards.

"She always looked like she was travelling like the winner."

Melody Belle, who had indicated her readiness with a recent lead-up trial success on her home track, settled behind the pace under Michael McNab.

McNab drove the daughter of Commands between runners in the straight and she powered to the post for her third win in five appearances.

Belle du Nord settled among the tailenders and she finished on well in the run home with Joyfilly third.

-NZ Racing Desk.