Melody Belle’s trainer Jamie Richards is fast becoming an expert on WhatsApp as he prepares Te Akau Racing’s star gallopers remotely from New Zealand.
The COVID-19 pandemic has prevented Richards from travelling to Sydney but he is grateful for the foresight of owner David Ellis, who left Melody Belle and Probabeel in Australia after the autumn and in the care of staff member Ashley Handley.
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Richards likes to be hands-on with his thoroughbreds but he has adapted to monitoring them over a screen.
“WhatsApp videos and all those sorts of things. We’re keeping in regular contact,” Richards said.
“We monitor their weight, temperature. There are plenty of different ways to check up on them.
“We like to spend a fair bit of time with our horses but we just couldn’t do that.”
Multiple Group One winner Melody Belle will kick off Te Akau Racing’s spring in the Missile Stakes (1200m) at Rosehill on Saturday after passing a fitness test.
The mare was treated for a skin rash this week and has been cleared to start by Racing NSW vets.
Richards says the issue will have no bearing on Melody Belle’s performance and while he expects her to improve fitness-wise from the Missile Stakes, he also anticipates a competitive return.
“The plan has always been to give her a run before the Winx and make sure she is hopefully 100 per cent for that race,” Richards said.
“She’s had a nice exhibition gallop and a nice trial and she is going into the race in pretty good shape.”
The Cox Plate is the major spring target for both Melody Belle and Probabeel, who is set to resume at the end of the month.
But with uncertainty surrounding the interstate movement of horses due to the pandemic, Richards is keeping an open mind.
“We’d like to try to end up in the Cox Plate but we’ve just got to work out how we can get to Melbourne with staff and all of that,” he said.
“The plan is to have those first couple of runs and maybe one more, then work out what we do.”
Melody Belle is one of three mares contesting the Missile, along with the James Cummings-trained Flit and Savatiano.
While Flit is adept on all ground, Cummings is hoping Rosehill remains in the soft range to give Savatiano her best chance.
“She can be explosive first up and we are hoping the track conditions will allow her to put that talent on show,” Cummings said.