Waipukurau couple Trevor and Debbie Walters were this week finalising travel and accommodation arrangements for themselves as they make plans to follow their wonder mare Melody Belle across the Tasman again.
It was confirmed earlier this week that Melody Belle will now head to the Melbourne Cup carnival at Flemington, where she will contest the Group 1 A$1million Empire Rose Stakes (1600m) on November 2 and then possibly the Group 1 A$2million MacKinnon Stakes (2000m) a week later.
Both races are run under weight-for-age conditions and regular jockey Opie Bosson has been confirmed to ride her in both events.
The Walters own a 10 per cent share in Melody Belle, who brought up her 14th career win and took her stake earnings to more than $2m with another commanding performance in last Saturday's Group 1 $250,000 Livamol Classic (2040m), feature race on the last day of the Bostock New Zealand Hawke's Bay Spring Carnival.
The couple are the biggest shareholders in the Fortuna Melody Belle Syndicate which races the five-year-old under the management of Auckland's John Galvin. There are 34 individual shareholders, with the Walters being the only Hawke's Bay people involved and they have rarely missed being on course to witness her 24 starts.
They were in Brisbane in May 2017 when their pride and joy won the Group 2 ATC Sires' Produce Stakes (1400m) at Eagle Farm and also travelled to Sydney in the autumn of last year when she was unplaced in two starts at Randwick.
Trevor Walters said this week that he and Debbie have been to Melbourne before, but this would be the first time they have set foot on the famous Flemington course.
"We are definitely going to be there and are very excited about it," he said.
"I think she's proven everything she can in New Zealand so why not take on the best in Australia.
"I can see her competing well in the Empire Rose Stakes on the first day and that should tune her up nicely for the MacKinnon Stakes on the last day."
Melody Belle earned two slices of New Zealand racing history with her dominant 3-1/2 length victory in last Saturday's Livamol Classic.
She became the first horse to complete the Hawke's Bay weight-for-age Triple Crown during the Hawke's Bay spring carnival - the Tarzino Trophy (1400m), Windsor Park Plate (1600m) and Livamol Classic. Eight horses had previously won two of the three.
It was also the ninth Group 1 win of Melody Belle's glittering career, which is a new record number of Group 1 victories in New Zealand. She had previously shared that record with Mufhasa, who won eight in New Zealand and another two in Melbourne.
Melody Belle was sent out a raging hot $1.30 favourite to make history last Saturday and she did not disappoint.
Rider Opie Bosson settled her in midfield, against the rail, as Mongolian Marshal and Peso went to the front in the early stages. Mauna Kea charged forward to take a clear lead into the back straight, then Peso worked back up alongside him to regain control.
Bosson moved Melody Belle away from the inside and into clear air with more than 1200 metres to run, and she cruised forward to slide into second place at the top of the home straight.
It was plain sailing from there as Melody Belle swept past a brave Peso, striding clear over the final stages to the cheers of a delighted Hastings crowd.
"She's such a darling," Bosson said. "We got bumped around a little bit in the first half of the race, but I ended up getting her out of trouble and then she just cruised into it. I just love her."
"To win these three Group 1 races at 1400, 1600 and 2040 metres, it takes an amazing horse and an amazing training effort by Jamie Richards."
Peso could head to Aussie
Hastings trainer Paul Nelson is contemplating a possible Australian campaign for class galloper Peso after saying the horse could be weighted out of some of the major upcoming New Zealand cups races.
Peso showed he is right at the top of his game when finishing a gallant second behind Melody Belle in last Saturday's Group 1 Livamol Classic (2040m) at Hastings but Nelson, who co-trains the horse with Corrina McDougal, says there are not a lot of options left for the horse in this country from now on.
The horse still holds a nomination for the Group 3 Christchurch Casino New Zealand Cup (3200m) at Riccarton on November 16 but Nelson doubts whether that will now be an option.
"He's going to be weighted out of most of the big cup races here," he said.
Peso was on a Rating of 90 points when he carried 54kg into second place in the Group 3 City Of Auckland Cup (2400m) at Ellerslie on New Year's Day and has since gone to 97 points, following his win in an open 2000m race at Hastings on September 21 and his second placing last Saturday.
Nelson says the present handicapping system seems to favour fillies and mares over the colts and geldings and is a reason why we no longer have the depth in our open class handicap races.
"Mares get into a race with a 1 or 2kg advantage and so that makes it hard for the geldings," he said.
If Peso does head to Australia, he is likely to target some the minor cups races there while, if he remains in New Zealand, he could be aimed at the Group 1 weight-for-age Zabeel Classic (2000m) at Ellerslie on Boxing Day.
Peso proved no match for outstanding mare Melody Belle in last Saturday's premier race at Bostock New Zealand Hawke's Bay spring carnival but produced a game performance, taking a clear lead with 800m to run and fighting right to the line after being headed early in the home straight.
"I thought for a moment that he was going to make it interesting when he dug in about 300 metres out but she [Melody Belle] was just too good in the finish," Nelson added.
Peso, who is owned by Paul Nelson and wife Carol, earned $47,500 in finishing second while the connections of first placed Melody Belle picked up $148,500.
Wait A Sec back on track
Tomorrow could be 'D-Day' for Hastings-trained Group 1 winner Wait A Sec when the horse has an important trackwork gallop at Hastings.
The Postponed nine-year-old, winner of the Group 1 Livamol Classic at Hastings two years ago, was side-lined with an injury after finishing last of 13 runners in the Metric Mile (1600m) at Awapuni on September 13 and his connections are hoping he is now back to full fitness again.
"He was very sore after Awapuni. He obviously had a problem in one of his hind legs and could hardly walk when he cooled down," the horse's co-trainer Grant Cullen said this week.
"He spent a couple of weeks locked up in a box since then and has obviously had a fair bit of treatment which seems to have brought him right.
"We still don't know what the problem was. We are not sure whether he spread himself when he jumped out of the barrier or injured himself in the running. But he seems okay now and he'll have a gallop at the Hastings track this Saturday."
Providing Wait A Sec comes through that gallop well he will then have a jumpout at Levin next Wednesday and then be aimed at a return to racing in the Group 3 $70,000 Thompson Handicap (1600m) at Trentham on October 26.
"He'll run in the Thompson and then hopefully in the Feilding Cup," Cullen added.
The Listed $50,000 Ricoh Feilding Gold Cup (2200m) is run on Saturday. November 2.
Wait A Sec, who is owned by his Hastings breeder Iain Henderson and raced by him in partnership with his Australian-based son Paul, has a record of 13 wins, five seconds and six thirds from 48 starts and has stake earnings of $394,270.
The horse spends the majority of his life on the Dannevirke property of Grant Cullen's partner Nikki Lourie, who is an equine physiotherapist and mixes the horse's training with working around the hills and dressage.
Wait A Sec suffered a tendon injury after winning the Wairoa Cup (2100m) in February last year which meant he never raced again until the first day of this year's Hawke's Bay Spring Carnival, on August 31. He finished last of 12 runners over 1600m that day and then filled the same position at Awapuni last start.
HB-bred Hartley in top form
Hawke's Bay-bred Hartley completed a winning double at this year's Bostock New Zealand Hawke's Bay Spring carnival when he dead-heated with Cutting Up Rough in the final event last Saturday.
The big Azamour five-year-old competed on all three days of the carnival, finishing seventh over 1300m on the first day before scoring a game win over 1400m on the second day.
Woodville trainer Neil Connors stepped the horse up to 1600m in a $40,000 Rating 82 event last Saturday and he showed tremendous fighting qualities again. He looked beaten when Cutting Up Rough ranged up outside him inside the last 100m but put in a mighty late lunge and the two horses crossed the line locked together.
Hartley was bred by Pourerere-based Sue Harty in partnership with the late Colin McKay and is out of the Towkay mare Madam Butterfly.
The horse was offered for sale as a weanling at a 2015 mixed bloodstock sale and was bought by Connors for $23,000. He has now recorded five wins from 16 starts and Saturday's win took his stake earnings to more than $85,000.
Madam Butterfly, who was the winner of five races, died last year but has also produced a two-year-old by Sweynesse that was bred by Harty in partnership with Explosive Breeding Limited, a company managed by Hastings-based Neville Robertson.
"The Sweynesse two-year-old is a magnificent looking horse but he is a very big horse who is going to take time," Harty said this week.
"He's been gelded and will be broken in around Christmas time and we will look at racing him next year."
Jaguary brings up his fourth win
Jaguary, formerly trained at Hastings by Guy Lowry and Grant Cullen, continued a purple patch of form in Australia when winning over 1950m at Morphettville last Saturday.
The Niagara four-year-old has proven a revelation for Adelaide trainer Travis Doudle, having won four of his five starts since crossing the Tasman as a maiden after five runs from the Lowry/Cullen stable.
Doudle purchased the gelding for less than $40,000 from his Auckland owner-breeder Trish Dunell, and believes the horse has the ability to go right to the top.
"He's a very talented horse who we liked from the minute he first arrived," Doudle said.
"The plan has been to get him into the spring stayers' series so he will qualify for that in a fortnight and then go to the final on Melbourne Cup day.
"After that there could be a cheeky race for him in Melbourne."