Stable hand Teina Walters fancies himself as horse-racing commentator some day so when asked to comment on Melody Belle's victory in Hastings today he didn't hold back.
"She's just beautiful. I'd like to compare her to Black Caviar [undefeated, retired Australian sprinter] but, I think, she's brutal speed wrapped up in an elegant machine," Walters said eloquently of the 4-year-old Bay mare, who won the group one Tarzino Trophy race over 1400m.
When the raucous laughter subsided from Hawke's Bay Racing CEO Andrew "Butch" Castles, the grinning 23-year-old from Matamata revealed the gritty galloper had been making all the right moves in all the right places this week, leading up to the first leg of the Bostock New Zealand Spring Racing Carnival.
"No, she's a princess and she's classy," Walters said as Castles, who had picked the Commands mare to win, soaked up the 20C day of the Daffodil Raceday where the proceeds will go to the New Zealand Cancer Society of Hawke's Bay. "She's no Black Cavier, nowhere near it."
Veteran jockey Opie Bosson had done some track work on Thursday and had indicated to Walters, when asked, "she'll win, bro".
Trainer Jamie Richards had momentarily darted off in all the kerfuffle today but for the 34-owner Fortuna Melody Belle Syndicate members it might as well have been Black Caviar as they milled around the birdcage for the trophy presentation ceremony of the $200,000 dash, the season's opening group one race.
Melody Belle, with Shafiq Rusof in the saddle, crossed the line in 1m 24.59s, half a length ahead of Hiflyer and Johnathan Parkes with another Richards' protege, Our Abbadean (jockey Rosie Myers), coming in third, a long neck behind.
Jon Snow (Matthew Cameron) and Savvy Coup (Chris Johnson) followed in a race where defending champion Close Up, New York Minute and Magnum were scratched.
Walters said it was good to follow the progress of a champion horse who was coming off a victory in the group two 1200m Foxbridge Plate at Te Rapa last month to kick off her 4-year-old campaign although she was out of sorts in Sydney.
"It's good that she's won as a 2-year-old [group one Manawatu Sires Produce Stakes], 3-year-old and now 4-year-old as a group one winner so she's very classy," says the stable hand who only started looking after Melody Belle for a few weeks.
Malayasian-born Rusof, who returned to New Zealand after plying his trade in Singapore, is a graduate of Mark Walker at Te Akau Racing before the latter relocated in Singapore in 2010.
"He's one of the best. He grew up and raced in Singapore against some of the best jockeys in the world.
"To have that sort of technique to be good over there and to win two apprentice premierships is going to translate coming over here to New Zealand," said Walters, recalling the time he had spent with Rusof when the jockey was an apprentice here.
The 31-year-old rider is based with his Singaporean wife and their children in her country of birth.
"She is a superstar, you know. She's a high-class horse and I don't think there's anything to worry about her," Rusof said of Melody Belle.
In the last 100m, Rusof had started threading his worry beads a little but she had just "kept giving".
Richards, who trained in tandem with with Stephen Autridge in May 2015 after joining Te Akau Racing in March 2014 as racing manager, secured his maiden solo-training group one bragging rights today after breaking the partnership last month.
Last year, Autridge and Richards had created a similar commotion with an orange-clad sydicate when they co-trained Gingernuts, with Bosson, to Windsor Park Plate victory here.
Self-effacingly Richards credited his staff members in Matamata for their diligence in today's success.
Asked what had transpired since the flat spell at Randwick, Sydney, early this year, Richards said Melody Belle had become a little bit stronger and mature since.
"She didn't have much luck in Sydney where she had bad barriers and got caught out but she's found the right races and has been very competitive."
While not to keen to look across the ditch again right now, he is endeavouring to bring the mare back for the second leg of the spring carnival here, the 1600m Windsor Park Plate, on Saturday, September 22.
"I'm going to sit down with the owners and talk about it but I won't be making any decisions today. We'll work it out next week or so."
Richards was pleased with Our Abbadean's placing, revealing the Highland Lights (Australia) 6-year-old mare is a stayer suited for the final leg of the Hastings trilogy, the 2040m Livamol Classic on Saturday, October 6.
He saluted Rusof's ride, adding he deserved all the success he got.
"He's won the last five rides so he's been very lucky," Richards said with a grin of the jockey who also won the second race today, the 1200m Hastings — Heart of Hawke's Bay rating 82, on Te Akau Shark.
The Marie Leicester-bred Melody Belle, bought for $57,500 from the Haunui Farm draft during the premier session of the national yearling sale at Karaka in 2016, has earned the syndicate more than $1.1m.
Syndicate manager John Galvin had put the group ownership together two years ago and had mustered 83 horses since then.
"We now have 30 under this management racing here and in Singapore so that's the story," said Galvin, of Hamilton, who has had a successful financial career.
The syndicate comprises people from throughout the country from myriad ages, he said.
Some have interests with many horses while others with just the odd one.
Galvin said Melody Belle had champion written all over her.
"She's got a will to win and can run very fast."