The person best placed to judge whether Melody Belle can extend her unbeaten start to the season out to 1600m in the Windsor Park Plate won't even be at Hastings tomorrow.
Champion jockey Opie Bosson is too heavy to go back to raceday work just yet — but not for much longer.
Bosson got as heavy as 70kg over the winter, admitting he let himself go too much during his annual layoff, when motivation was low and temptation high. He was still walking at 68kg just a few weeks ago but is down to 61.5kg and aiming to be back riding for the last day of the Hawke's Bay carnival on October 6.
"It was my fault for getting that big but we have put together a plan to get it off the right way — diet, gym and work," he says. "I am getting close so the last day of this carnival would be great and then aim toward Riccarton [early November]."
One of Bosson's fitness regimes has been getting back in the saddle at Te Akau, riding work three days a week before working in the afternoons.
Among those he has ridden are pin-up girls Melody Belle and Avantage, who have both secured ace draws in tomorrow's two group races.
Melody Belle was good winning the Foxbridge Plate last month but even more dominant in the Tarzino Trophy over 1400m at Hastings three weeks ago. The most logical reason she doesn't dominate the market for tomorrow's group one is because it is 1600m but Bosson says after drawing the ace the four-year-old is clearly the horse to beat.
"The 1600m start at Hastings is tricky and being drawn handy, if you have the speed to use, is a huge help," he explains. "So I can see Shafiq [Rusof, rider] being able to keep her handy, probably take a trail and then her being right there to win at the top of the straight.
"It helps some of the other favourites have wide draws this week but even Hiflyer [second] had his chance to run her down last start.
"I haven't ridden her this week but I did last week and she came through the Tarzino well and was moving really freely so I am sure she will be ready."
With the Hastings rail going out 3m it will be interesting to see whether the inside is as advantageous as it was on the first day of the carnival and if it proves to be so then Melody Belle could well close into favouritism come start time, especially as she is proven in all track conditions.
What won't be in any doubt is Avantage's favouritism for her return in the $70,000 Gold Trail Stakes, her first outing since winning the Sires' Produce at Awapuni on March 31.
Avantage was hardly stunning in her only catchweight trial this campaign but Bosson quickly puts that in perspective.
"I rode her that day and I didn't let her head go because the track was heavy and she was carrying about 73kg," he laughs.
"I had a sit on her last week and she is ready to go and obviously the ace really helps her."
Key rivals like Xpression and Stella Noire both have races under their belts so therefore a clear fitness edge over Avantage but have yet to accomplish anything like her feats of last season.
Avantage was only beaten once in six starts as a juvenile and even that was when coming from last in a sizzling 32.8 second last 600m in the group one Sistema Stakes at Ellerslie. Ironically it was Bosson who beat her that day, riding Sword Of Osman.
Danielle Johnson, who rode Avantage to win the Sires Produce, stays on her tomorrow.
Gold Trail Stakes at Hastings, 2.42pm
Windsor Park Plate at Hastings, 4.28pm
MRC Cup at Caulfield (featuring NZ stayers Charles Road and Zacada), 6.10pm.