The Queen of the New Zealand turf has already proven she doesn't need many favours to win Group 1 races but she appears to be getting them anyway.
And that makes Melody Belle clearly the horse to beat as she chases Group 1 win No 12 in the $250,000 Livamol Classic at Hastings on Saturday.
The great mare was both brave and brilliant winning the Windsor Park Plate over 1600m on this same track two weeks ago, fighting off Avantage after her younger stablemate appeared to have her measure at the 200m mark. The pendulum might have swung back slightly to Avantage when she drew barrier four as opposed to Melody Belle's 12 for Saturday's 2040m but the Hawke's Bay weather appears to have evened the draws up again.
After two heavy downpours on Wednesday and today the Hastings track is rated a slow8 tonight and local trainers are suggesting at best it will get back to a dead6 but more likely a slow7.
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While Avantage would not be enormously disadvantaged by a slow track, it should suit Melody Belle more and it could also help with her wider draw as the Livamol is race eight on a busy programme so coming wider on the track could be the place to be.
The pair and stablemate Prise De Fer have impressed trainer Jamie Richards this week but he opts for Melody Belle as the stable's top chance. "She has really improved since winning the Windsor Park Plate and the potential for a wetter track won't bother her," he says.
Further aiding Melody Belle is the fact another key rival Two Illicit will not want a wettish surface while Supera has been scratched, with a tiny hoof problem and a wide draw seeing her connections err on the side of caution.
Two Illicit may have won on a slow track at Ellerslie two starts ago but that was more through sheer class than enjoying the surface and while the step up to 2040m will suit her, trainers Roger James and Robert Wellwood will be hoping the track continues to improve.
Two Illicit is a mare who would relish a genuine tempo to turn the Livamol into a staying test and that may not be the case, with natural on-pace runners The Mitigator and Callsign Mav, who raced handy in the first two legs of this Triple Crown, missing this weekend.
While some new Group 1 depth comes into the race with Tiptronic and Auckland Cup winner Glory Days, it is hard to see the tempo being anywhere as fast as the previous Group 1 races at Hastings this season so that plays against some of those recognised more for their staying ability.