Hawke's Bay-owned horses racked up 14 black type wins in the 2018-19 racing season with Melody Belle, part-owned by Waipukurau couple Trevor and Debbie Walters, the standout performer.
The Commands mare chalked up a remarkable five Group 1 victories between August 2018 and March this year, stamping herself as one of the favourites for the title of New Zealand Horse of the Year.
Melody Belle is owned by the Fortuna Melody Belle Syndicate, managed by Auckland-based John Galvin, and is trained by Jamie Richards out of the base of Te Akau Thoroughbreds in Matamata. There are 34 individuals involved in the ownership and the Walters have the biggest shareholding at 10 per cent.
Melody Belle recorded six wins from only eight starts last season.
She recorded Group 1 victories in the Tarzino Trophy (1400m) and Windsor Park Plate (1600m) at Hastings, BCD Group Sprint (1400m) at Te Rapa, Haunui Farm Weight-for-age (1600m) at Otaki and the Bonecrusher Stakes (2000m) at Ellerslie.
She also took out the Group 2 Lisa Chittick Foxbridge Plate (1200m) at Te Rapa.
Avantage, another horse syndicated by Te Akau Thoroughbreds and part-owned by Waipukurau's Michael Ormsby, won two black type races in the season, the Group 3 HB Breeders Gold Trail Stakes (1200m) at Hastings and the Group 3 TAB Birthday Card Stakes (1400m) at Rosehill, in Sydney.
Hawke's Bay-owned black type wins for the 2018-19 season:
Sea King: Won $A350,000 Australian Grand National Steeplechase (4500m) at Ballarat. Bred and part-owned by Central Hawke's Bay's Sue Harty.
Perry Mason: Won $50,000 Pakuranga Hunt Cup (4200m) at Te Aroha. Owned by the I See Red Syndicate.
Melody Belle: Won Group 1 $200,000 Tarzino Trophy (1400m) at Hastings. Part-owned by Waipukurau couple Trevor and Debbie Walters.
Avantage: Won Group 3 $70,000 HB Breeders Gold Trail Stakes (1200m) at Hastings. Part-owned by Waipukurau's Michael Ormsby.
Melody Belle: Won Group 1 $200,000 Windsor Park Plate (1600m) at Hastings. Part-owned by Waipukurau couple Trevor & Debbie Walters.
Cutadeel: Won Listed $50,000 Barfoot & Thompson Salver (2100m) at Ellerslie. Bred by Waimarama New Zealand Limited. Owned by Hawke's Bay couple Sharyn & Mike Craig and raced by them with other family members and close friends. Adrian and Angela Herd, who are Sharyn's son and daughter-in-law, have a share along with her other two sons Brendon and Darren. Two other Hawke's Bay women, Kathleen Wright and Cheryl Leonard, also have a share each.
King Louis: Won Group 3 $70,000 Mongolian Khan Trophy (1200m) at Ellerslie. Bred and owned by Hawke's Bay couple Richard and Liz Wood.
Melody Belle: Won Group 1 $200,000 BCD Group Sprint (1400m) at Te Rapa. Part-owned by Waipukurau couple Trevor and Debbie Walters.
Melody Belle: Won Group 1 $200,000 Haunui Farm Weight-for-age (1600m) at Otaki. Part-owned by Waipukurau couple Trevor and Debbie Walters.
Avantage: Won Group 3 $A160,000 TAB Birthday Card Stakes (1200m) at Rosehill. Part-owned by Waipukurau's Michael Ormsby.
Melody Belle: Won Group 1 $200,000 Bonecrusher Stakes (2000m) at Ellerslie. Part-owned by Waipukurau couple Trevor and Debbie Walters.
No Change: Won $50,000 Hawke's Bay Hurdle (3100m) at Hastings. Bred and owned by Hawke's Bay couple Paul and Carol Nelson.
Perry Mason: Won $50,000 Hawke's Bay Steeplechase (4800m) at Hastings. Owned by the I See Red Syndicate.
No Tip: Won $75,000 Wellington Hurdle (3400m) at Trentham. Bred and owned by Hawke's Bay couple Paul and Carol Nelson.
HB Spring Carnival first day
The Bostock New Zealand Spring Carnival is almost here with the Tarzino Trophy TAB Daffodil race day, on August 31, launching Group 1 racing for the season and bringing the big guns of New Zealand racing to Hastings to do battle in one of the country's stellar racing events.
There will be a nine race programme, with the first timed for 12.15pm and the last at 5pm. The gates will open at 10.30am with general admission being a $5 donation to the Hawke's Bay Cancer Society. There will be a $30 charge to the Members Stand.
Between the races there is a promise of plenty of action with The Hits free family zone with children's entertainment, live music, and a food precinct offering Hawke's Bay's finest outdoor catering.
All of the gate donation fees, along with proceeds from a charity auction, and other generous parties, will support this great charity that's touched the lives of many families in the Hawke's Bay.
Te Akau pair remain on track
Creditable performances from his star performers Te Akau Shark and Melody Belle in Saturday's Group 2 US Navy Flag Foxbridge Plate (1200m) at Te Rapa has left trainer Jamie Richards satisfied with the start to a big spring campaign for both horses.
Te Akau Shark stormed home from near last on the turn to run impressive winner Endless Drama to less than a length at the line, while Melody Belle battled gamely into fourth after peaking on her challenge in the last 150m.
Richards, who celebrated his 30th birthday on Sunday, reported both of his charges had pulled up well from their exertions.
"While we went there to win, you had to be satisfied with how they both performed and there is no shame in losing to a quality horse like Endless Drama.
"The wide draw made it tough for Te Akau Shark as he got back and had to come very wide in the home straight but he closed things off nicely in the final stages.
"Michael McNab gave Melody Belle a great run from her draw, but she is a year older now and I think she is definitely looking for 1400m and further.
"She never gave it away in the straight and was holding her ground well at the post, so I don't think she lost any admirers with the run."
Richards confirmed the immediate plans for both horses would be for Te Akau Shark to head straight to Sydney while Melody Belle will continue on her mission to the three Group 1 events over the Hawke's Bay Spring Carnival.
"Te Akau Shark will head across to Sydney next Monday and will run in the Group 2 Tramway Stakes (1400m) at Randwick on September 7," Richards said.
"Melody Belle will go to the Tarzino Trophy at Hastings where she will meet Endless Drama again. She is going to have to lift to challenge him but we're confident there is still a turn or two in the screw with her."
Shamal races in Aussie Sunday
Hunterville trainer Ken Duncan has stepped into new territory with his fine steeplechaser Shamal set to race at Ballarat on Sunday.
Duncan will start the 9-year-old Zabeel gelding in the Grand National Steeplechase (4500m) with regular rider Buddy Lammas in the saddle.
"It's the first time I've had one over here in Australia so it is all part of a learning curve," Duncan said.
"I've always wanted to bring one over, but never had one good enough. I mightn't have another this good so we're having a go."
Shamal spoilt his good record this winter when being pulled up in the Grand National Steeplechase (5600m) at Riccarton last start, but took no harm from the race.
"It was just too wet for him," Duncan said.
"This race has always been in the back of my mind and I'm happy with him since he arrived last Wednesday.
"He schooled last Friday no trouble and he'll be going home for a spell after this one and we'll look at next year."
Last year Shamal won the Grand National Steeplechase at Riccarton and was third in both the Great Northern Steeplechase (6300m) at Te Aroha and the McGregor Grant Steeplechase (4000m).
He started the current jumps season with a double at Te Rapa, including the Waikato Steeplechase (3900m) then, after finishing fourth in the Hawke's Bay Steeplechase (4800m), he bounced back with another Te Rapa win.
Lammas has been Shamal's regular rider since winning on him at Awapuni last winter in the lead-up to the Grand National Steeplechase and he is looking forward to Sunday's assignment.
"As long as the track doesn't get too wet he should be a good chance," Lammas said.
Lammas will head to Melbourne tomorrow night after riding at Ellerslie, where his mounts include Old Countess in the Pakuranga Hunt Cup (4900m).
While Duncan is in Ballarat with Shamal, stablemate Alfie Dee is being prepared for his attempt to add the Great Northern Hurdle (4190m) at Ellerslie on September 7 to his last-start narrow win in the Grand National Hurdles (4200m) at Riccarton.
Alfie Dee, bred and part-owned by Hawke's Bay couple Mick and Barbara Duncan, notched his first jumps win at Awapuni last month in his final lead-up to the Riccarton feature.
Short campaign for Oaks winner
Last season's Group 1 New Zealand Oaks winner Sentimental Miss passed the first test of what is going to be an abbreviated spring campaign when she flashed home to finish a close seventh in last Saturday's Group 2 US Navy Flag Foxbridge Plate (1200m) at Te Rapa.
The Go Racing Yesteryear Syndicate-owned four-year-old showed she was well on target for a potential Australian Group 1 assignment after enjoying a decent winter break following her Oaks triumph back in March.
Go Racing manager Matt Allnutt, who had advised syndicate members before the race that the mare was well but not to expect a winning run, was over the moon with the performance that saw her finish off strongly to be just in behind the place getters.
While the Reliable Man mare holds a nomination for the Group 1 Livamol Classic (2040m) at Hastings on October 5, it is more likely she will be in Sydney to contest the Group 1 The Metropolitan (2400m) at Royal Randwick on the same day.
"We have planned all along to give her just the four runs this time in before tipping her out again," Allnutt said.
"She will go to Hastings on August 31 for an open 1600m before she gets on a plane for Sydney.
"If she performs up to the mark then she will run in the Kingston Town Stakes (Group 3, 2000m) at Randwick which is two weeks before the Metropolitan.
"She will go back in the paddock after that as we don't want to overdo things as we have bigger plans for her next year."