Nobody has more faith in Melody Belle than her trainer Jamie Richards.

He has shaped her career, guiding her to four group one wins and today has aimed her at completing a handful of elite-level victories in the $200,000 group one Haunui Farm Weight-For-Age Classic (1600m) at Otaki.

The Commands five-year-old mare racked up her third group one of the season in the BCD Group Sprint (1400m) at Te Rapa a fortnight ago and it was a performance that best displayed her extreme courage.

Even Richards had all but written her off. "I was about ready to walk away at the top of the straight but to see her pick herself up off the canvas and drive through them like she did was pretty cool to watch," he said.


"It was an incredibly brave win and exemplifies her great will to win. When we get to look back on her career one day, you'll say she was a pretty honest mare. She's had a couple of blemishes but other than that she's been pretty much on the ball."

Melody Belle's spring group one wins in the Tarzino Trophy (1400m) and Windsor Park Plate (1600m) at Hastings set her as the early benchmark galloper in the country and only a mystifying failure in the group one Telegraph (1200m) at Trentham has done anything to harm that standing.

But the competition keeps lining up to take her down a peg.

Bostonian nearly did that at Te Rapa, going down narrowly after making a spirited bid for glory. Stepping up to 1600m, he is an interesting prospect today, especially as he won the group three Sunshine Coast Guineas (1600m) last year at this trip.

If the forecast rain arrives, he looks one of the least disadvantaged, having won both his starts on heavy tracks and three of his four starts on slow going.

Volpe Veloce is another with good rain-affected track form and another in super form.

She rocketed home for fourth in the BCD Group Sprint, coming from last with a closing split just shy of Melody Belle's final 600m sectional.

She was similarly eye-catching when finishing one spot behind Melody Belle in fourth in the group one Railway (1200m) at Ellerslie last month and in between produced a stunning finishing burst to collar Sleeping Beauty for group two Westbury Classic (1400m) success at Ellerslie on Karaka Million night.


Aussie raider Endless Drama brings interesting formlines.

An Irish 2000 Guineas runner-up as a three-year-old with trainer Ger Lyons, the Lope De Vega seven-year-old stallion was sent to Chris Waller in Sydney and last year won the group two Apollo Stakes (1400m) at Randwick, having chased Winx and Hartnell into third place in the same race 12 months prior.

He was only fifth in the Carrington Stakes (1400m) resuming last start but missed the start by four lengths then produced the second quickest last 600m of the race.

Adding depth to the race are last-start group one Thorndon Mile winner Shadows Cast, last-start group three Taranaki Cup winner Consensus, herself already a group one winner and second in this race last year, impressive last-start Anniversary Handicap winner Supera, group one winner Ladies First and promising three-year-old More Wonder.

Against Melody Belle is barrier 13 but she is likely to be ridden positively as customary and Richards has few concerns with the wide gate or the prospect of rain.

"The rain, if it does arrive, won't worry us. If it rains, it probably makes her draw look a whole lot better. She's in good form, handles any track conditions and we're looking forward to the race."

At Matamata, Richards will produce five runners and is excited about them all.

Two-year-old boys Aotea Lad, Yourdeel and Equinox clash in a six-horse group three Waikato Stud Slipper (1200m) and look a decent chance of providing the trifecta, while impressive Te Rapa debut winner Harlow tackles the feature group two Matamata Breeders Stakes (1200m) and Together races on the undercard.

"Five runners, all beautiful horses," Richards said.

"Harlow has really pleased us with her progress from Te Rapa and she's got to be a good chance and Together is a really progressive filly. Our two-year-old boys should all run well and hopefully all go on to the Sistema Stakes (group one 1400m at Ellerslie on March 9) in good form."