Whatever the mind-numbing numerical matrix pertaining to inside and outside barrier winners, Melody Belle turned myth buster when she stormed to victory in Hastings today.
Jockey Michael McNab, who had ridden the magnificent mare into contention at the 350m mark from barrier 15, had sprung from his saddle, akin to a jack in the box, for a don't-argue celebration to defend the marquee group 1 Tarzino Trophy.
"She's a no-frills type of horse and just a real warhorse," McNab told NZ Racing Desk before someone revealed at the birdcage why his grandmother had labelled the "swooper" a "cheeky little monkey".
The whispers were the 33-year-old Waikato rider could be fined for celebrating before crossing the line but, suffice it to say, the euphoria of keeping a triple crown dream alive in the Hawke's Bay Spring Racing Carnival trilogy should prevail.
In doing so, McNab had helped exorcise a few demons for trainer Jamie Richards who had grappled with pangs of doubt on whether his 5-year-old Commands mare could defy the "cooked goose" belief of a devil's barrier at the 1700m, left-turn track.
"That was just awesome," said a flustered Richards who looked relieved after exchanging hand shakes and back-slapping hugs with numerous well wishers. "I've just been having a frustrating run of placings lately so to kick start the season with the first group 1 is a massive thrill."
The 30-year-old from Matamata lauded his stable crew for bringing the horses through winter in great form in the hope of more returns during the season.
That included his father, Paul, and mother Leeanne who help him at his stables.
Richards clarified his father didn't work for him but they worked alongside each other. His mother was with him at the Hastings racecourse today.
"I'm very fortunate that my parents have moved to Matamata to give me a hand at the stables and it's all going very well."
A thrilled Paul was the first to phone him after Melody Belle's victory, making his son feel extremely privileged to mentor such a wonderful horse.
"They ran at a really hot tempo which helped us," he said of Melody Belle, rating McNab's ride a "10 out of 10".
A grinning Richards wasn't sure if McNab had fallen foul of rules in celebrating "but he shows his emotions and good on him".
He reiterated Melody Belle would return to defend the Windsor Park Plate (1600m) Group 1 crown and, if everything follows the script, will start in the final leg - the Livamol Classic marquee race (2040m), one he had opted out of last year.
"That's our target and that's what we want to try to achieve," he said of the treble group 1 spring carnival crowns here.
Melody Belle, who won five group 1 crowns last season, is among nominees for the New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing Horse of the Year title at the annual award ceremony to be held at Ellerslie racecourse in Auckland on September 8.
Jockey Darryl Bradley rode Wyndspelle into second place, three-quarters of a length behind Melody Belle, while Helena Baby (Donavan Mansour) was a long neck adrift in third place.
Pre-race Irish favourite Endless Drama, under the tutelage of Tony Pike, finished 13th despite drawing a kinder barrier at seven with Leith Innes in the saddle.
Pike, whose childhood was in Hastings, will no doubt conduct a post-mortem on what happened to the Group 2 Foxbridge Plate winner at Te Rapa where Melody Belle had finished fourth.
Te Akau Racing owner David Ellis bought Melody Belle for $57,500 from the Haunui Farm draft at the 2016 premier session at the National Yearling Sale.
Marie Leicester, of Manawatu but living in Auckland nowadays after a spell in Taupo, bred Melody Belle, sired by Commands out of Meleka Belle.
"This mare just blew me away today," said a beaming Leicester who was watching from the balcony but, at the top turn, had prematurely turned to daughter Maryanne, of Havelock North, to say "mmm ... not today".
"The next thing I could see she just [exploded]," the 81-year-old said. "It was just absolutely phenomenal."
Leicester said her Taranaki farming parents, the late James and Annie Sarten, had started breeding horses a year before she was born in 1938 from a mare called Belle Star, after grazing a couple of mares for a New Plymouth butcher, George Tremlett.
She has photographed the receipt of Belle Star's purchase from Foxbridge, framed and mounted it in a collage on the wall of the hallway at her home.
"It's my most prized possession. That's the start of the modern Belle family as we know it today and we've been breeding for more than 80 years from that one bloodline."
Leicester, who has 10 brood mares, said a memorial race in Te Rapa is named after her parents.
Incidentally Melody Belle isn't the first by her name. Leicester's mother bred the first Melody Belle who had gone on to win nine races, including her first start.
But she is "stoked" with the reigning champion.
"To breed a mare like her is something breeders dream about all their lives and for finally all your dreams to come to fruition is absolutely mind boggling," says Leicester, suspecting it's her biggest acquisition to date.
Shane Thomsen, one of 34 members of the Fortuna Bloodstock Melody Belle Syndicate, said McNab had strayed from the blueprint but, more importantly, hadn't panicked when he couldn't take Melody Belle up front for fear of burning up too much energy.
"He settled her back and then used her for the last leg [the 375m straight]," said Thomsen, adding McNab had emulated the feat of another elite rider in Malaysian-born, Singapore-based jockey Shafiq Rusof who had brought them joy last year.
"Watch Michael this year, he's going to win a lot of races."
The 59-year-old property investor from Thames said it was an amazing feat from the horse, feeling it was the sternest test for the mare today because she had to make more ground.
Foxbridge Plate, Thomsen said, was always going to be too short for Melody Belle but the sheen of her coat today spoke volumes of her resolve.
"In the coat, she just looked beautiful and was ready to go."