Melody Belle's jockey is giving trainer of the moment Jamie Richards as much confidence as the mare's amazing record heading into today's A$5 million All-Star Mile.

The Matamata glamour girl is second favourite for the second running of the race, which moves to Caulfield today after being held at Flemington last year as the three big Melbourne clubs share the love.

New Zealand would ideally have had a one-two punch until Catalyst was withdrawn last week after jarring up in his joints but with a few other big names withdrawn or struggling for their best form, the weight-for-age mile looks almost perfect for Melody Belle.

The almost part comes from the fact she would probably be even better suited to a bruising mile around Flemington, where her stamina came into play to win the Empire Rose in November.


Caulfield can sometimes play very much on speed and it becomes hard to swoop, and while Melody Belle's barrier five should mean she doesn't get too far back, she would still probably be even tighter in the market on the bigger track, especially as the rail will be out 6m today.

But Richards, who last week rose to ninth in the world trainer's rankings and looks set to go higher, isn't worrying about the track.

'"She is so versatile and has won on so many different tracks I don't think it will matter," he told the Weekend Herald.

"And I like the fact we were expected to get some rain on Friday. That could really help us and maybe not some of the others as much."

But what has really put the spring in Richards' step this week has been the reports from stable No1 jockey Opie Bosson.

"Opie was over there earlier in the week to ride her and he was very happy," explains Richards.

"He doesn't get carried away easily but he has been really bullish about how she feels.

"And if he is happy so am I."


That suggests Melody Belle has improved as required since her first-up third over 1400m at Caulfield three weeks ago, with the 21-day gap and step up to 1600m looking ideal for today.

As brave as his mare has been throughout her career, Richards has nothing but respect for today's favourite Alligator Blood, who has developed a huge fan club with his two defeats of Catalyst.

"He is obviously very very good and loves a fight," Richards says.

"So he is the one to beat but there are also some other very good horses in here. She is going to need to be at her very best to win but we think she might be."

While Richards will be in Melbourne for the richest race of his career so far today, he travelled via Sydney to watch Probabeel and Te Akau Shark in track work on Thursday.

The Shark is in good shape but doesn't race until next Saturday whereas Probabeel will go head to head with arch rival Funstar in the Phar Lap Stakes today as long as the Sydney weather plays its part.


"If it doesn't get heavy she will line up but if it gets too wet we can't beat Funstar and I don't want to flatten her trying.

"She is very well and if the track is okay, say no worse than a six, she will be hard to beat."

Probabeel, who won the group one Surround Stakes in stunning fashion last start, also takes on the boys today but most of the leading Australian male 3-year-olds are not in the field.

All-Star Mile

What: Second running of Victoria's new A$5 million race.

Where: Caulfield, Melbourne.

When: 6.45pm NZ time today


Conditions: 10 of the starters are selected by public vote, the others are wildcards

Flying the flag: 10-time group one winner Melody Belle represents NZ as the second favourite.