Danzdanzdance and Madison County look the best chances in $400k Herbie Dyke.

Our stars are out to play at Te Rapa today.

And chances are that at least one of those headline acts will grab their third group one trophy for the season.

The trio of Melody Belle (Tarzino Trophy, Windsor Park Plate), Danzdanzdance (Captain Cook Stakes, Zabeel Classic) and Madison County (2000 Guineas, Levin Classic) each has two elite level wins to their name this term.

And with Danzdanzdance a $1.70 favourite for today's $400,000 Herbie Dyke Stakes (2000m) and Madison County sitting on the second line of betting at $6, it's highly likely that we'll have our first triple group one winner for the season out of the weight-for-age feature.


TAB bookmakers have installed Melody Belle a $2.90 favourite for the BCD Group Sprint (1400m) one race later, though she comes off an unplaced run in last month's group one Telegraph (1200m) at Trentham and meets a strong weight-for-age sprint field, her rivals headed by brilliant last start group two Westbury Classic (1400m) winner Volpe Veloce.

So, who gets there first?

Danzdanzdance and Madison County have first crack and the pair look the best chances in the race so the odds are stacked in their favour.

Grey Mastercraftsman mare Danzdanzdance has been a revelation this season. She resumed with a frontrunning Ruakaka win, finished third after a freshener into the group one Livamol Classic (2040m) at Hastings then ran out a dominant winner of the Captain Cook Stakes by four lengths and the Zabeel Classic by nearly the same margin.

She has proven herself adept in handling a longer gap between races and is the best-placed horse under weight-for-age — she is meeting last month's group two Rich Hill Mile winner On The Rocks a theoretical 12.5kg better than she would under a true handicap.

She deserves favouritism.

But Madison County has already shown himself to be a special horse.

As a three-year-old, he carries 4kg less than Danzdanzdance and while three-year-old wins in this race are rare, the record of that age group in recent years is encouraging.

While none contested the race last year, Savile Row and Jon Snow tackled the race in 2017, finishing second and seventh respectively. In 2016, Valley Girl won and Ronchi finished eighth.

And Madison County has arguably stronger form than any of that quartet, having won the 2000 Guineas and Levin Classic before a fast-finishing third in the Karaka Million 3yo Classic in his last three starts.

He finished in the fastest last 600m of the Ellerslie million-dollar feature and has yet to miss a placing.

While there is the unknown of him stepping up to 2000m for the first time and doing it in the company of Danzdanzdance, Madison County is class — and at $4.80, plenty of punters will be willing to cross that bridge of chance.

Backing Melody Belle will require a similar leap of faith. She was below her best in the Telegraph, finishing in the wake of BCD Group Sprint rivals Bostonian, True Excelsior and Hiflyer. But she did it from a wide draw and off a wide run in a race that was dominated by those on speed and generally closer in — though deadheat third-placegetters Sensei and Signify were never closer than four wide either.

However, Melody Belle proved herself one of the best horses in the country with brilliant late winter and spring wins in the group two Foxbridge Plate (1200m) at Te Rapa and then her Hastings double of the Tarzino (1400m) and Windsor Park Plate (1600m).

An interesting facet of her record relates to distance. In 11 starts up to 1200m, she has won four. In six starts beyond 1400m, she has also won four but those four wins are her three group one wins and the group two QTC Sires' Produce Stakes (1400m) in Brisbane. Like Danzdanzdance, she is the best-placed runner under the weight-for-age conditions, meeting last-start group three Concorde Handicap (1200m) winner Ardrossan 14kg better than she would under theoretical handicap conditions.

But she needs to bounce back.

When she stormed home for third in last month's group one Railway (1200m) at Ellerslie from a horror draw and with a horror run in transit, there was another compelling beaten run in the race.

That came from Volpe Veloce, who actually finished in a quicker last 600m than Melody Belle in finishing fourth. She has gone on to win the Westbury Classic at the BCD Group Sprint distance of 1400m, having to lift late to down Sleepy Beauty when that eventuality seemed unlikely when three lengths arrears with 200m to run.

She has won 11 of her 21 starts and will be ready to take advantage of any chinks in the Melody Belle armour.

Outside the group one features, the group two Warren Storm Lifebrokers Waikato Guineas (2000m) has more depth than at first glance. Sword In Stone was brilliant in winning at Ellerslie last start in a time some 3.5 seconds faster than the other 1600m maiden race on the day.

Arrogant was luckless in the Levin Classic but still ran creditably for sixth, while Lincoln Falls, fifth in the Levin Classic, Auckland Guineas-placed Langkawi and The Chosen One all have claims as they take their next step towards the $1 million Vodafone New Zealand Derby (2400m) at Ellerslie on March 2.

Queen Of Diamonds looks a worthy favourite in the group two Sir Tristram Fillies Classic (2000m) despite drawing the outside barrier.

She can press forward and dictate the tempo and has the form credentials to boot. Last-start group three Desert Gold Stakes winner Secret Allure demands respect, as does group two Royal Stakes winner Imelda Mary back up to 2000m and Karaka Million 3yo Classic runner-up The Real Beel.

Consider Patch Prince to open the programme with a performance to match his trials form, while Demonetization looks a standout prospect in race two. Sacred Day looks well-placed in race six and Tightlign looks a good bet in the last.