Trainer Jamie Richards headed home from Melbourne on Sunday morning with his focus on a massive summer of racing in his home patch but also with one eye firmly to the future which is Australia in the autumn for his stable big guns.
Richards admitted to a shade of disappointment that star mare Melody Belle had her Group One winning charge ended when runner-up in the Gr.1 Mackinnon Stakes (2000m) on Saturday but acknowledged that she had done more than enough to justify her status as a leading player in Australasian racing circles.
“I guess it comes down to the barrier in the end as it dictated where we could ride her and that ended up being a few places back from where we needed to be,” Richards said.
“You map the race and all the possibilities beforehand but when the gates open you have to play what is in front of you and this time, we just didn’t have that touch of luck we needed.
“I haven’t had a chance to see what her closing sectionals were but I would think they would be pretty phenomenal.
“She will be on a plane home next week and in the paddock for a break before we bring her back for an autumn campaign.
“She certainly has done us all proud and deserves a rest before coming back for another crack at them.”
Richards and team Te Akau Racing have produced a stunning run over the Melbourne and Sydney carnivals with the trio of Melody Belle, Te Akau Shark and Probabeel combining for a Group One win, four Group One placings and two Group Two placings from just eight starts.
Richards will now have the task of working out what the autumn will hold for the stable headline acts, a project he indicated was already underway.
“It’s a fairly short turnaround between now and the autumn even though it might seem a wee way off just yet,” he said.
“Probabeel and Avantage obviously came back home earlier than the other two and they have been back in light work at the stable for the past week.
“Te Akau Shark is enjoying some good grass out at Te Akau Stud and Melody Belle will take her turn in the paddock when she gets home but they will both be back in the stable fairly quickly if we want them at peak for the autumn.
“We’ve got a fair bit of work to do to map out a plan for each of them and that will be dictated by how they come back up after their work during the spring.”
The Brendan and Jo Lindsay-owned Probabeel is likely to have a New Zealand feature race on her dance card before attempting to nail down an elusive Australian Group One victory.
“At this stage Probabeel with be aimed at the Karaka Million 3YO Classic (1600m) at Ellerslie in late January as her first big assignment,” Richards said.
“It is a $1 million race that looks made to measure for her. Safely through that, we will then look at the options for her in Sydney.
“Avantage disappointed a little in her two Australian starts but she appears to have freshened up nicely since she has been back.
“We’re not too sure where to go with her just yet or even just what her best distance will be.
“There had been some thought that she might be well placed over a little more ground as she is out of a Zabeel mare who was Group One placed over 2000m, but we’re still working on that.
“She will be back around the same time as Probabeel and we will work out where we are going with her once we see how she comes up.”
Richards indicated Melody Belle could have the A$5m All Star Mile (1600m) at Caulfield in March as her main target while Te Akau Shark may also be aimed at the Melbourne feature although Richards preferred to see him tackle some of the rich Sydney features instead.
“Melody Belle looks like an ideal candidate for the All Star Mile and I guess her work over the past week at Flemington won’t have done her any harm in terms of the public vote to get a start in the race,” he said.
“Te Akau Shark could also look at the race but might be more suited in Sydney where he could be favoured by striking tracks with a little more give in them.
“In the past, we probably wouldn’t have had Sydney on his radar as he needed a decent spell after a hard campaign like he has had, but as he has matured he seems to be able to cope a lot better with more regular racing, although we are mindful of not overdoing it with him.
“At this stage we won’t know much more until we get them back in the stable but we are certainly keen to head back over the Tasman and take on the challenges presented.”