Melody Belle earned ten times her purchase price in one scintillating hit with a 31-to-one upset in the Karaka Million at Ellerslie this evening.
The Commands filly, who comes from the famous Belle family, was purchased by perennial leading buyer David Ellis for $57,500 at last year’s Premier Sale. Today she gave the thrill of a lifetime to a massive group of owners in the Fortuna Melody Belle Syndicate, managed by John Galvin.
She was largely overlooked in the lead-up to the dash for cash, with a battling last-start eighth over the Karaka Million course and distance overshadowing her good early-season form – a debut win at Ruakaka and a placing in the Gr. 2 Wakefield Challenge Stakes.
But today she shone brightest of all in a field of precocious youngsters. Rider Opie Bosson slotted her into a beautiful position in fourth one off the rail, then went for gold as they straightened for home.
Melody Belle dashed to the lead more than 250 metres from home, bringing Fortuna syndicate members to their feet as she burst clear. Hasahalo and Felton Road closed off strongly but they couldn’t catch Melody Belle, who held on by a length and a quarter.
Winning connections converged on the winners’ circle from all around the course, ecstatic and bewildered and asking strangers for directions.
“This is a great thrill,” Galvin said. “A lot of existing Fortuna clients are in this horse, but there are some very excited newbies as well. It’s fantastic.”
It was the second major win for Bosson since his appointment just over a month ago to the role of number-one rider for Te Akau Racing and trainers Stephen Autridge and Jamie Richards. They teamed up with Hall Of Fame in the Gr. 1 Levin Classic two weeks ago.
Melody Belle’s weight of 54.5 kilograms was below Bosson’s natural level, but the effort proved well worthwhile.
“A win like that is just unbelievable,” he said. “I’ve worked for Stephen Autridge since I was very young, so it’s great to win big races like this for him.”
Richards said that today’s big win, on the eve of the National Yearling Sales Series, could not have been timed any better.
“It’s a huge buzz,” he said. “Full credit to everyone in the team. David does a great job of buying these horses. We’ll all be out there at Karaka tomorrow and trying to buy the next one!
“The team at home have done a great job with this filly as well, and Opie gave her a great ride. It shows the difference a jockey like him can make in a million-dollar race.
“I’m thrilled for John as well, he puts a lot into the industry.”
Richards said no decisions have yet been made on the remainder of Melody Belle's campaign.
"You never make these decisions on raceday," he said. "But races like the Diamond Stakes at Ellerslie and the Sires' Produce Stakes at Awapuni could be options later on. We'll see how she comes through this before we decide anything."
Completing a dream result for syndicates on the eve of the Karaka sales, Hasahalo stormed home to finish second in today's feature.
“She rattled home but the winner’s been too good,” trainer Stephen McKee said.
Third was Felton Road, who tasted defeat for the first time in his three-start career. He is trained by Tony Pike for a large group of owners that includes former cricketer Simon Doull.
“That was outstanding,” Doull said. “I couldn’t fault the ride, I couldn’t fault anything that happened today. We ran a beautiful race and he’ll be a better horse next year. Bring it on!”