There was a tangerine glow to last night's New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing Awards, with the colours of Te Akau Racing the dominant element at the virtual event.
Te Akau stable star Melody Belle retained her Horse of the Year title and also headed the voting in the sprinter-miler and middle-distance categories.
Her stablemate Cool Aza Beel was a unanimous choice as 2-Year-Old of the Year, Te Akau trainer Jamie Richards was the sole contender for Trainer of the Year and stable rider Opie Bosson was named Jockey of the Year. Richards and Bosson were the leading Group 1 performers in Australasia for the season.
Te Akau Shark was runner-up to stablemate Melody Belle in the sprinter-miler category and Probabeel was runner-up to Catalyst in the 3-year-old category.
Melody Belle shared the limelight last night with veteran Palmerston North trainer Kevin Gray, who received the prestigious Outstanding Contribution to Racing Award.
Gray, 83, still runs a successful stable and finished 12th on the NZ Premiership last season, being the second-winningest trainer in the Central Districts.
Five horses received votes for Horse of the Year, but Melody Belle was a runaway winner, receiving 90 per cent of the 60 votes cast.
The 5-year-old mare had an outstanding season, with four wins – all at Group 1 level – and five placings from 10 attempts, earning almost $2 million in stakes. She was a Group 1 winner at the Melbourne spring carnival and became the first horse to win all three legs of the Hawke's Bay Triple Crown.
There were no surprises in the HOY awards voting and the smallest winning margin was the 19-vote majority recorded by Catalyst in the three-year-old category.
Richards, in just his second season in sole charge at Te Akau's Matamata stable, had an extraordinary season. He won a record 11 Group 1 races, including three in Australia, and his 20 black-type victories included wins in the Karaka Million 2YO and 3YO. The stable headed the NZ Premiership and topped $7m in earnings for the season. Bosson, who was voted Jockey of the Year for the sixth time, also won 11 Group 1 races, including five in Australia, and was the leading rider at the Sydney autumn carnival.
Cambridge Stud proprietors Brendan and Jo Lindsay were named Owners of the Year. Their racing team was headlined by Probabeel and Matamata Breeders' Stakes winner Vernazza.
HORSE OF THE YEAR WINNERS
Horse of the Year: Melody Belle
NZTR Award for Outstanding Contribution to Racing: Kevin Gray
Champion 2-Year-Old: Cool Aza Beel
Champion 3-Year-Old: Catalyst
Champion Sprinter-Miler (up to 1600m): Melody Belle
Champion Middle-Distance Horse (1601m-2200m): Melody Belle
Champion Stayer (2201m and further): The Chosen One
Champion Jumper: It's A Wonder
Trainer of the Year: Jamie Richards
Jockey of the Year: Opie Bosson (49)
Jumps Jockey of the Year: Shaun Fannin
Owners of the Year: Brendan and Jo Lindsay
Stablehand of the Year: Lisa Kennedy (employed by Kevin Myers)