This time was different for Jamie Richards.

He has won $1 million races before, in fact he trained the trifecta in the Karaka Million earlier this year.

And the 30-year-old Matamata trainer has been part of huge wins in Australia before, having been the co-trainer of Gingernuts when he won the Rosehill Guineas a few years ago.

But when Melody Belle gave most of her rivals a start and a beating in the A$1m Empire Rose at Flemington on Saturday both horse and man got a monkey off their back.


For Melody Belle it was her first group one win in Australia, adding to her nine here, and remarkably her seventh this year, far and away the most of any thoroughbred worldwide in 2019.

That she could overcome racing three wide throughout and back up after the rigours of the Triple Crown at Hastings to down last season's VRC Oaks winner Aristia proves that for all her ability, Melody Belle's greatest asset may simply be her heart.

And some very sound legs.

But even the great horses need an astute trainer to steer their careers and Richards' handling of Melody Belle has been near perfect.

Jamie Richards (right) and Brad Taylor celebrate their success at Flemington Photo / Supplied
Jamie Richards (right) and Brad Taylor celebrate their success at Flemington Photo / Supplied

He rejuvenated her after a shock defeat in the Telegraph at Trentham in January. She finished 16 of 18 that day, she has won seven group ones in eight starts ranging from 1400m to 2040m since. But as good as her New Zealand group ones have been, Saturday was different.

Winning any race on Derby Day is special, a group one obviously more so. Your first group one in Australia under your own name, for Richards that was a mixture of relief and ecstasy.

"We have had a couple of near misses this spring so it's great to get it," he told the Herald.

"Yes, I have had a group one here before with Gingernuts but now I am training on my own, albeit with the help of a huge team of really good people, it means a lot.


"These are the meetings you want to be at, the stage where you want to perform. So to get a group one for the team is wonderful and I am just so happy for the mare as well.

"To be honest, she is the perfect racehorse and you almost feel guilty taking the credit for training her because she just turns up and does the job."

Those sentiments also apply to jockey Opie Bosson, who produced a typically no-panic ride after being trapped three wide, the most surprising part of the 1600m victory being the slight drift in Melody Belle's price even after the rain came.

Richards will ascertain how the 5-year-old comes through Saturday's victory before confirming whether she tackles the A$2m Mackinnon this Saturday. "She backs up so well if she is happy she will probably go to the Mackinnon but we don't have to decide that until Saturday morning," Richards says of the now pre-acceptance favourite.

Whether she chases group one win No.11 at Flemington or not this week, Melody Belle is likely to be back there in March, with the A$5m All Star Mile her main autumn aim.

Singing in the rain

• Kiwi mare Melody Belle smashes the Aussies in the A$1 million Empire Rose at Flemington.

• It was her first Australian group one win after nine in New Zealand.

• Her seven group one wins this year are the most of any thoroughbred in the world.