Despite the strength of her opposition in a season that saw Matamata-trained horses win no less than 13 Group One races, there was no great surprise that star racemare Melody Belle successfully defended her Matamata Horse of the Year title when the 2019-20 awards event took place at Matamata racecourse this week.

The Jamie Richards-trained bay created history as the first horse to complete a clean sweep of the Gr. 1 Tarzino Trophy, Windsor Park Plate and Livamol Classic at the Hawke’s Bay spring carnival. She then took that form to Melbourne, where in the space of a week she added the Gr. 1 VRC Empire Rose Stakes at Flemington and finished an unlucky second to Irish raider Magic Wand in the Gr. 1 VRC Mackinnon Stakes.

Melody Belle’s big season also included placings in the Gr. 1 MRC Futurity Stakes and All-Star Mile and ATC Doncaster for total stake-earnings in her five-year-old season of $1,935,782.50.

At Monday’s home town awards she also claimed the Champion Sprinter-Miler award from a field that included her stablemates Avantage, Prise De Fer and Te Akau Shark.

Age-group titles went to two other members of the potent Te Akau stable, star juvenile Cool Aza Beel and ace three-year-old Probabeel, the latter becoming the first horse to win both Karaka Million races before adding the Gr. 1 ATC Surround Stakes at Randwick.

The Savabeel filly’s breeders Waikato Stud claimed the Champion Breeder title after another huge season headed by a total of 12 individual stakes winners.

Matamata’s champion stayer of 2019-20 is Sydney Cup winner Etah James, whose part-owner-breeders Mark and Cath Lupton also took the Owner of the Year trophy recognising the combined efforts of Etah James and the Karen Fursdon-trained Yearn, winner of the Gr. 2 Auckland Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes and placed in the Gr. 1 Thorndon Mile.

The Peter and Jess Brosnan-trained Pythagoras won the Champion Jumper award, while Reece Cole claimed the Jumps Jockey of the Year title, Sam Collett the Champion Jockey and Sam Weatherly the Champion Apprentice title.

The popular stablehand/strapper and track rider awards were won respectively by Wexford Stables employee Ellen Osborne and long-time freelancer Lyall Clements.

The standout performer amongst the Matamata racing community was champion trainer Jamie Richards, whose domestic tally of 101 wins ensured a second national premiership title. Jamie’s achievements in a landmark season were headed by a gobsmacking tally of 11 Group One races – Melody Belle (4), Avantage (3), Te Akau Shark (2) and Probabeel and Cool Aza Beel with one each.

Melody Belle winning the 2019 Livamol Classic

The Team behind Melody Belle (L to R: Jamie Richards,
David Ellis, Marlene Thomsen, Shane Thomsen, Mette Mosebo)

The full list of Matamata Racing Club Horse of the Year award recipients:

J.W. McAnnalley Champion Sprinter/Miler – Melody Belle
D.W. Moss Champion Stayer – Etah James
R.C. Blake Champion 2-Year-Old – Cool Aza Beel
J.C. Tucker Champion 3-Year-Old – Probabeel
T.W. Brown Champion Jumper – Pythagoras
Lindsay Family Champion Apprentice Jockey – Sam Weatherley
D.G.M Benjamin Champion Breeder – Waikato Stud
C.C.E. Thompson Champion Owner – Mark & Cath Lupton
W.L. Tisch Champion Jockey – Samantha Collett
D.J. O’Sullivan Champion Trainer – Jamie Richards
B.R. Tims Champion Jumps Jockey – Reece Cole
J.B. Christophers Strapper/Stablehand – Ellen Osborne
The Chairman’s Track Rider – Lyall Clements

2019/2020 Matamata Horse of the Year – MELODY BELLE

Dennis Ryan