Ellerslie dress rehearsal for Te Akau Railway hopefuls
Te Akau Racing will ramp up their Gr.1 Sistema Railway (1200m) offensive when Group One winners Heroic Valour and Melody Belle tackle Saturday's Ray White NZ 1200m at Ellerslie.
The Stephen Autridge and Jamie Richards-trained pair will use the open handicap as their lead-up to the feature sprint, run under set weights and penalties conditions on January 1.
|Heroic Valour Photo: Race Images|
Melody Belle is currently a $9 equal second favourite for the Railway, with Heroic Valour on third line of betting at $12 in a TAB futures market headed by last year's winner Start Wondering at $7.
A winner of the Gr.1 Manawatu Sires' Produce Stakes (1400m) and the Gr.2 QTC Sires' Produce Stakes (1400m) to earn the title of last year's champion two-year-old, Melody Belle goes into Saturday's race fresh.
Heroic Valour, also a Group One winner at two, has begun his four-year-old season with a fifth placing in the Listed Legacy Lodge Sprint (1400m) at Te Rapa and a last-start third in the Listed Counties Bowl (1100m).
"He's come through that race really well. We're very pleased with him," Richards said.
"He's a good-doing Fastnet Rock colt who thrives with racing, hence why he's having another race on Saturday. This race is a nice fit as it's three weeks before the Railway and hopefully he should be peaking for that race fourth-up.
"Although he didn't win as a three-year-old, his form was very good. He ran terrific all season but just let us down with that last run. He was third in the 2000 Guineas and second in the Gold Coast Guineas and to be fair to him, his form has been good all the way through."
Melody Belle has trialled twice leading up to her three-year-old debut, placing in a Cambridge 935m open heat before winning a 1000m open trial at Avondale last month in the hands of Saturday's jockey Michael McNab, that day beating subsequent Listed Counties Bowl (1100m) winner Fully Funded.
"Her trials have been very good and that's been franked through Fully Funded winning," Richards said.
"Her coat took a little while to turn after Brisbane, coming back to the cold. She's always been a real racehorse. She just wants to get on with the job, doesn't have a lot of patience. Rather than waiting five minutes, she wants to do it now.
"Her work was good on Tuesday and we expect her to run very well. She's a class filly and while this isn't an easy task, we'd be disappointed if she didn't run one, two or three."
Fortuna Syndications director John Galvin, the racing manager for Melody Belle, said the Karaka Million 3YO Classic (1600m) at Ellerslie on January 27 was the Commands filly’s primary target. - NZ Racing Desk.