MELODY BELLE on song in the Group One Tarzino Trophy


The grit and determination of high-class galloper Melody Belle was plain for all to see at Hastings today as she triumphed in the season’s opening Group One feature, the Tarzino Trophy (1400m).

Beautifully handled by Malaysian-born rider Shafiq Rusof, the 4yo mare by Commands out of Meleka Belle justified her favourite’s tag for the contest when she held out the challenge of the well fancied Hiflyer in a desperate finish to the event.

The victory added a second win at the highest level in New Zealand for her owners, the Fortuna Melody Belle Syndicate, managed by John Galvin, after she triumphed in the Gr.1 Manawatu Sires Produce Stakes (1400m) as a two-year-old.

Click HERE to see race result and Video replay

MELODY BELLE  too strong in Tarzino Trophy

The win was also the first Group One trophy for trainer Jamie Richards in his own right after he took over the reins at the powerful Te Akau Racing operation at the start of the new season.

“I’d just like to give a big thank you to all the staff at home,” Richards said. “Obviously there have been a few changes in the new season. I’m only the name in the book as I can’t do it all so this is a very emotional win and I’m very proud of the team.”

Richards was fulsome in his praise for Melody Belle who was having her second start in this campaign after winning the Gr.2 Foxbridge Plate (1200m) at Te Rapa last month to kick off her four-year-old season.

“It was a terrific win and a terrific ride,” he said “We were really pleased how she came through the Te Rapa run. She’s a filly who loves being out in the paddock when she can, so we had a couple of fine days where we were able to get her out there.”

Richards was keen to see how the mare comes through her effort before deciding on her next challenge but wasn’t ruling out a tilt at the Gr.1 Windsor Park Plate (1600m) on the second day of the carnival.

“We’ll sit down now and have a talk with John Galvin,” he said.

Shafiq Rusof has made a favourable impression since returning to New Zealand in March this year following a successful stint in Singapore. He has come full circle to the country where he honed his craft as an apprentice jockey under Mark Walker’s tutelage at Te Akau Racing before following Walker to Singapore when he relocated in 2010.

“She is a superstar and a high-class horse who just gives everything to the line,” he said when questioned after the race. She did everything right although I was a bit worried when they came after her but when I asked she just kept giving.”

Syndicate Member Shane Thomsen, Melody Belle with Shafiq Rusof aboard and Strapper Teina Walters coming back to scale

Fortuna Syndications Director John Galvin was a proud man post race “She has developed into a fabulous race mare who has no quirks, she just gets out and does the job – I was involved in the ownership of Darci Brahma and I never thought I would have another one as good as him – she is not quite there yet, but she is giving his record a pretty good nudge. Watching the race from the Stand, I was surrounded by people I didn’t even know who were screaming her name the last 100 metres – it was a humbling experience – she is bringing so much joy to many people.”  he said, “and what a fabulous training effort by Jamie Richards to have her right for this race given her tough run in the Foxbridge Plate just two weeks ago.”

Melody Belle, bred by Marie Leicester, is raced by the Fortuna Melody Belle Syndicate, a grouping of 34 individuals and was purchased by Te Akau Racing principal David Ellis on behalf of Fortuna Syndications for $57,500 at the 2016 New Zealand Bloodstock Premier Yearling Sale, from the draft of Haunui Farm. The victory takes her career earnings to over $1.1m from seven victories, with six of these at stakes level including the rich Listed Karaka Million (1200m) as a two-year-old.

Fortuna Syndicate Members celebrating post race