Jamie Richards now has a clearer idea of how New Zealand form translates to Sydney racing as Melody Belle prepares for a rematch with Godolphin filly Alizee.
A Group One winner in New Zealand and Group Two winner in Brisbane last year, Melody Belle found her latest Australian opposition harder when she took on a quality field in the Group Two Light Fingers Stakes (1200m) at Randwick on February 17.
The three-year-old finished fifth, 2-1/4 lengths from Alizee, who will again start favourite in Saturday’s Group One Surround Stakes.
Richards, who co-trains with Stephen Autridge, was encouraged by Melody Belle’s effort but realised she would have to improve to be competitive.
“It was a pass mark for sure. She was outgunned a bit early but she stuck to the task when she had an opportunity to drop out when things got a bit tight,” Richards said.
Richards said stepping up to 1400m would be beneficial given two of her five career wins were over that distance, including the Sires’ Produce Stakes at Eagle Farm last May.
“It’s ideal, but in saying that she probably does need to improve to be matching it with a filly like Alizee,” he said.
Alizee was at $2 on Tuesday ahead of the final field and barrier draw while Melody Belle was on the fourth line of betting at $11.
Richards said Melody Belle’s task would be made easier by a good gate after she drew 10 of 11 in the Light Fingers.
“We’ll take anything inside six so we can roll her a little bit handier to the speed,” he said.
Richards said Melody Belle had recovered well from her first outing and said her Surround performance would determine the next goal.
Hugh Bowman replaces Rory Hutchings on the filly.
Richards said Embellish also needed to lift his game if the three-year-old colt was to pose a threat in the Group One Australian Guineas (1600m) at Flemington on Saturday.
The winner of the New Zealand 2000 Guineas, Embellish finished sixth in the Group Three C S Hayes Stakes (1400m) at his first Australian start.
“He stuck at it. He came off the bridle a long way from home so he’ll need to improve,” Richards said.