Red-hot trainer Jamie Richards isn’t getting ahead of himself despite having the favourites for both feature races at Hastings on Saturday.
Richards will produce Melody Belle, pictured, and stablemate Our Abbadean in the Gr.1 Windsor Park Plate (1600m) and Avantage in the Gr.3 Hawke’s Bay Breeders Gold Trail Stakes (1200m) at Hastings as he looks to continue a phenomenal start to training on his own account.
Having succeeded Stephen Autridge at the end of last season to take up the head trainer position with Te Akau Racing, Richards has won with 11 of the 36 runners he has produced in the first seven weeks of the new term.
Headlining those winners has been Melody Belle, who provided her conditioner with his first Group win on his own account when she claimed the Gr.2 Foxbridge Plate (1200m) at Te Rapa in August and then went one better with her triumph in the Gr.1 Tarzino Trophy (1400m) at Hastings three weeks ago.
Not to be too far outdone, Our Abbadean ran home in the quickest last 600m split of the race to snare third and Richards reported both had prepared well for this weekend’s weight-for-age assignment.
“I’m pleased with them. Everything has gone according to plan. They have both trained on nicely,” he said.
TAB bookmakers have Melody Belle as a $4.50 second favourite for the Windsor Park Plate, behind eye-catching Tarzino runner-up Hiflyer at $4.20, while Our Abbadean is on the sixth line of betting at $13.
Richards was again leaning to Melody Belle as the better of the stable chances.
“She’s got a good barrier [gate one] and everything has gone how we’ve wanted with her. She’s really matured this year. She’s eating better and handling the racing better,” Richards said.
“We’d like her to hold her position early and land at least in the trail and from there she shouldn’t have to spend a penny in running.
“We had Gingernuts win this race last year after he was a bit stiff not to run closer in the Tarzino and he’s a special horse to the stable but Melody Belle is right up there with the best of them and she would be a very popular winner with us
Richards said Melody Belle would head for a spring spell after Saturday’s race with summer sprint aims of the Gr.1 Sistema Railway (1200m) at Ellerslie on January 1, the Gr.1 JR & N Berkett Telegraph (1200m) at Trentham on January 19 and the Gr.1 BCD Group Sprint (1400m) at Te Rapa in February.
While Richards believes Our Abbadean will be best suited in the Gr.1 Livamol Classic (2040m) at Hastings on October 6, he is expecting another bold run this weekend.
“She’s another good chance. It was such a big run first-up which means she could be flatter second-up but the three weeks between races is ideal and she’s trained on well. She just needs it genuinely run to get her best chance. She’ll be at her best distance in the Livamol Classic.”
Only once beaten in six starts, last season’s champion two-year-old Avantage has come up a $1.85 favourite in TAB markets for the Gold Trail Stakes, having the benefit of a trial and a Hastings exhibition gallop to fit her.
“She’s good and the trip away last time really brought her on. She’s ready to run a good race,” Richards said.
“But she has come up short enough for mine. Xpression looks a real danger to me. She won well at Wellington last season (in the Gr.2 Wakefield Stakes) and she came from last to win at Taupo the other day, which they don’t do very often.”
Richards will also chase stakes spoils in the south with Quattro Katie a $10.50 fourth favourite for Saturday’s Listed New Zealand Bloodstock Canterbury Belle Stakes (1200m) at Riccarton.
“We’re trying to get some black-type with her. She’ll get back but be running on. She’s got a lot of upside but she’s still a work in progress.”