Cambridge jockey Troy Harris completed a dream day at Te Rapa on Saturday when he guided sprinting sensation Melody Belle to victory in the Gr.1 BCD Group Sprint (1400m).
Harris was “Johnny on the spot” to replace an ill Michael Coleman on Sponge Bob in the Gr.2 Warren Strom Lifebrokers Waikato Guineas (2000m) as he guided the $34 outsider to an upset victory.
Harris had earlier been selected for the mount on the Jamie Richards-trained Melody Belle after regular rider Opie Bosson was suspended for a raceday indiscretion.
That booking was placed in jeopardy when Harris received his own suspension, however a stay of proceedings enabled him to take his place on the Commands four-year-old mare and secure his first Group One win since piloting Tell A Tale to victory in the 2008 New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m).
Sent out a warm favourite despite finishing near last in the Gr.1 Telegraph (1200m) at Trentham at her last start, Melody Belle looked a forlorn chance when battling behind a wall of horses shortly after the field turned for home.
Ardrossan and Bostonian had set down to fight out the finish before Harris guided Melody Belle into a gap at the 100m mark where she charged home to snatch victory by a head from Bostonian with a nose back to Ardrossan in third.
Harris, who had worked and ridden for Te Akau Racing in his formative years, paid tribute to his former employers when questioned after the race.
“I’m thrilled to ride for Te Akau and Fortuna (owner) who have given me the opportunity,” he said.
“As you know I did my apprenticeship with Te Akau, so they have been good to me and I’m just rapt.
“Turning for home I thought I was in a little bit of trouble but then I got a suck up behind Jason (Waddell, riding Ardrossan), I gave her a couple and she just took off.
“She had me in two minds turning for home but when we got to the 200m she clicked into gear and I knew we were in business.”
Richards also admitted he hadn’t been confident of a win as the race unfolded in front of him.
“I must admit I gave her away a bit at the top of the straight,” he said.
“Full credit to the horse as she is just so tough and never gives up.
“I don’t know what happened at Trentham but that is the real Melody Belle today.”
The victory was the third at Group One level this season for Melody Belle who has now won nine of her 18 starts and over $1.38million in prizemoney.
Owned by the Fortuna Melody Belle syndicate she was a $57,500 purchase by Te Akau Racing boss David Ellis from the Haunui Farm draft at the 2016 National Yearling Sale.
The win also capped a super day for Haunui Farm graduates with Imelda Mary winning the Gr.2 Cambridge Stud Sir Tristram Fillies Classic (2000m) earlier on the programme.