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New Zealand champion Melody Belle has defended her Group One title in the Tarzino Trophy at Hastings

New Zealand champion Melody Belle has defended her Group One title in the Tarzino Trophy at Hastings with a sustained display of strength.

After missing the start slightly, Melody Belle was back in the field against pre-race plans but built momentum under Michael McNab to pass Wyndspelle and win by three-quarters of a length.

The mare will soon be crowned NZ Horse of the Year for last season during which she won five Group One races.

An indifferent run first up in the Foxbridge Plate (1200m) at Te Rapa combined with an outside barrier draw, meant she was an easy second favourite behind Endless Drama in Saturday’s 1400m-feature.

“This is just unreal,” McNab said.

“With the work that has been put in by the whole Te Akau team, I had a good feeling.

“We stepped slow and I thought that was Plan A definitely gone as I was going to go forward.

“So, I went back and got in and across the top I saw Endless Drama out posted and I thought he would take me far enough.

“We chased him and then sucked up and sucked up and when she got out, she let rip – just an amazing horse.

“She’s a no-frills type of horse and just a real warhorse.”

Richards praised the effort by McNab, who Te Akau Racing boss David Ellis had taken under his wing after the jockey returned from an unhappy stint in Australia.

“It was a no panic ride,” Richards said.

“She stepped half a stride slow, but they went a really good tempo which probably worked in our favour.

“A big thank you to Dave (Ellis) for taking Michael under his wing and getting his weight right, helping him with his attitude and keeping positive and I think you can see that in the way he rode today.”

Richards confirmed the mare would return to Hastings for the Group One Windsor Park Plate (1600m) in three weeks before tackling the Group One Livamol Classic (2040m) on October 5.

 
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