The queen of NZ racing has been crowned before historic race starts.
TAB bookies may have waved the white flag with Melody Belle ahead of Saturday's $250,000 Livamol Classic but that hasn't stopped some fresh blood taking her on in the group one.
In a rare move for the New Zealand TAB they have already paid out hundreds of punters who backed Melody Belle to win the Hawke's Bay Triple Crown.
Melody Belle has been stunning winning the first two legs, the Tarzino Trophy (1400m) on August 31 and the Windsor Park Plate (1600m) on September 21 and after drawing perfectly for the final leg is rated a $1.25 chance in the Livamol (2040m).
Head TAB bookmaker Thad Taylor said they had seen enough.
"The way the final field has shaped up with Melody Belle opening at $1.25, supporters who believed from the start that she could take out the Triple Crown shouldn't have to wait for their winnings," explained Taylor.
Taylor said there were hundreds of customers who bet on the option with plenty getting on prior to the first leg when she drifted out to between $12 and $18. "The biggest bet in the book was $1000 at $3.80 which came in after her win in the first leg and there were plenty of punters who got on prior to the first leg including one punter who laid down $500 at $14 to return $7000 and another who had $500 on at the $9.00 opening quote."
The TAB's surrender won't stop the race being run of course and while many of those who have contested the first two legs have dropped away, horses like Vernanme, local Peso, Fiscal Fantasy and last season's Oaks winner Sentimental Miss come into the weight-for-age test after missing the Windsor Park Plate.
None of them are expected to even test Melody Belle after she drew perfectly at barrier two, giving rider Opie Bosson so many options.
The main one would seem to be: stay out of trouble and hold on.
She is so dominant Mongolian Marshal, who finished third in the Windsor Park Plate, and last-start Pukekohe winner Vernanme are the only other runners under $26 in the market, both rated $9 to win but more attractively $2.05 for a place.
"We realise she is going to be incredibly hard to beat but it is still a group one and anything can happen," says Andrew Forsman, co-trainer of Mongolian Marshal.
While Peso is rated a $26 chance the long-striding local looks one of the options for place punters as he can roll forward in a race that could potentially lack a strong tempo, particularly if either he or Derby winner Crown Prosecutor opt to take a sit on the other.
Either way, Peso is a fit, strong horse racing on his home track which perhaps balances out any lack of genuine weight-for-age form on his behalf.
As remarkably short as Melody Belle is to win a Triple Crown that has never been worn, three-year-old sensation Catalyst is almost identical odds to win Saturday's Hawkes Bay Guineas.
He has opened $1.28 from barrier seven and is missing one of his key potential rivals for the spring in Holy Mongolemperor, who will not only miss this week's Guineas but the 2000 Guineas at Riccarton next month.
"He has a low grade lung infection so will be spelled and come back in the summer," said Forsman.
Livamol Classic (G1)
M4, Hastings, Saturday 4.40pm, 2040m
1. Dolcetto (9) Jason Waddell (59) $26.00 $3.80
2. Mongolian Marshal (4) Matthew Cameron (59) $9.00 $2.05
3. Peso (8) Rosie Myers (59) $26.00 $3.80
4. Mauna Kea (13) Robert Hannam (59) $151 $9.00
5. Jacksstar (7) Chris Johnson (59) $151 $9.00
6. Athena Baby (3) Vinnie Colgan (59) $151 $9.00
7. Crown Prosecutor (12) Craig Grylls (57.5) $71.00 $6.25
8. More Wonder (5) Trudy Thornton (57.5) $61.00 $6.00
9. Vernanme (11) Danielle Johnson (57.5) $9.00 $2.05
10. Melody Belle (2) Opie Bosson (57) $1.25 $1.06
11. Fiscal Fantasy (6) Leith Innes (57) $41.00 $5.00
12. Atlanta Peach (1) Troy Harris (57) $71.00 $6.25
13. Sentimental Miss (10) Lisa Allpress (55.5) $41.00 $5.00.