Graham Richardson doesn't care what the TAB market says he is adamant his mare Volpe Veloce is as good as glamour girl Melody Belle heading into tomorrow's $200,000 Haunui Farm Classic at Otaki.
And if he is right the $6.50 quote for Volpe Veloce from her good draw versus the $2.80 for her arch rival starting from barrier 13 makes Richardson's mare the smart bet in the 1600m group one.
Richardson and training partner Gavin Parker have been lamenting Volpe Veloce getting so far out of her ground and then working home from seemingly hopeless positions this summer.
So tomorrow the plan will be to stay in the first half of the field and let her grind out what could be a brutal mile.
"She is really racing like she wants a mile now," says Richardson.
"She has been getting so far back a few times and running on but often with no chance of winning.
"But from barrier three we want her closer and I think she will be very hard to beat. I really think there is nothing between her and Melody Belle, just whoever gets the best run."
While that might sound a tad biased considering Melody Belle has won three group ones this season and is favourite for the Horse of the Year title, some of the stats back up Richardson's claim.
I really think there is nothing between her and Melody Belle, just whoever gets the best run.
Melody Belle has won half of her 18 career stars, Volpe Veloce has won half of her 22.
Both were high class younger horses and while Melody Belle has the superior record this season, Volpe Veloce was stunning winning the Railway last season and not far behind her fellow Matamata mare after they started from wide draws in the Railway this season.
Melody Belle's overall record this season says she has been the better horse but not by three to five lengths, which could be what her wide barrier draw disadvantages her by tomorrow. While she has the undoubted genius of Opie Bosson to aid her, Melody Belle has a dreadful record from barrier draws outside seven, from where she cost punters a fortune in both the Railway and the Telegraph.
Back to an inside draw over 1400m at Te Rapa last start she was too good for her rivals including Volpe Veloce (fourth).
But with those barriers reversed tomorrow you can make a very strong case the pair should be closer in the market.
Bosson agrees Volpe Veloce is the mare Melody Belle has to beat but says his superstar's wide draw is somewhat negated by the long run to the first bend over 1600m at Otaki.
"They start down a shute and you do get plenty of time to find a spot but I don't make decisions on going forward or settling in until after the start," says Bosson.
"You might have an idea what you want to do but you really don't know until that first 50m."
Bosson galloped Melody Belle on Tuesday morning and says the busy last seven weeks hasn't dented her enthusiasm.
"She is pretty professional, she turns up to work and does what she needs to do."
While Volpe Veloce and Melody Belle know each other well (Troy Harris who rode Melody Belle last start jumps on Volpe Veloce tomorrow), the Haunui brings together some unusual formlines.
From rugged oldtimers like Shadows Cast, recent 2100 and 1800m winner Consensus, Auckland Cup winner Ladies First, three-year-old More Wonder and the Chris Waller-trained Endless Drama ensure a rather unique punting puzzle for a New Zealand group one.