Outstanding mare Melody Belle made it two Group One wins in succession as she dominated her rivals in Saturday's Windsor Park Plate (1600m) at Hastings.
Although some were prepared to question her credentials over the 1600m of Saturday's contest, the Tarzino Trophy (1400m) winner from three weeks earlier was installed a warm favourite for the second leg of the Hawkes Bay triple crown.
An inch perfect ride from Malaysian born jockey Shafiq Rusof saw him use the Commands four-year-old's early gas from the number one barrier draw to position beautifully on the fence behind a strong speed set by pacemakers Contessa Vanessa and Sensible Princess.
Approaching the turn Rusof was giggling to himself as he peeled off heels to issue his challenge with the majority of the mare's rivals struggling to make ground at a crucial stage of the race.
Sent for home Melody Belle quickly established a winning break before coasting to the line to score by over two lengths from Savvy Coup, Wyndspelle and Seventh Up who all chased gamely but to no avail.
Trainer Jamie Richards, who had earlier taken out the day's other black-type feature with last season's champion two-year-old Avantage, was quick to acknowledge the role the mare's barrier draw had played in the winning result.
"Barriers win races don't they," he said. "She's terrific isn't she and it was a lovely ride by Shafiq.
"She had trained on beautifully and it's a big thank you to the team at home who take such good care of her.
Richards also mentioned that the mare's confidence levels were at an all time high as she remained unbeaten in three starts in this campaign.
"She loves it," he said. "She's got that real swagger about her and she prances around like she knows she's pretty good."
Purchased by Te Akau Racing boss David Ellis for $57,500 during the premier session of the 2016 National Yearling Sale, Melody Belle is raced by the Fortuna Melody Belle Syndicate which is managed by long-time stable client, John Galvin.
It is that trio who will now decide the next steps for the mare this season although an attempt to become the first horse to win the Hawkes Bay triple crown has been ruled out by Richards.
"I think we will just look after and give her a spell now," he said.
"We'll get her ready for the Railway (Stakes) and then the Telegraph at Wellington."
Riccarton visitor Savvy Coup lost no admirers for the Gr.1 Livamol Classic (2040m) at Hastings on October 6, making up good ground after being denied a run until well into the home straight while Wyndspelle also caught the eye with his strong finishing burst.
– NZ Racing Desk