New Zealand’s two highest-rated horses – 10-time Group 1 winner Melody Belle and Ladbrokes Cox Plate (2040m) placegetter Te Akau Shark – have joined their fellow Kiwi, Catalyst, in the nominations list for the second edition of The All-Star Mile.
After Clayton Chipperfield entered his excitement machine Catalyst, whose five successive wins have included four at Stakes level, fellow trainer Jamie Richards followed his lead by nominating both Te Akau Shark and Melody Belle for the $5 million showpiece.
The trio will all cross the Tasman Sea in the new year and spend their autumn campaigns in Australia, where connections are hopeful of securing a start in the world’s richest mile race at Caulfield on Saturday, 14 March 2020.
With New Zealand residents eligible to vote in The All-Star Mile for the first time, the high-profile trio are certain to gain plenty of admirers in the race to land one of the 10 fan-voted berths in the 15-runner field.
Whilst a maiden success at racing’s highest level has just eluded Te Akau Shark, who is part-owned by NRL great Paul Gallen, the five-year-old enhanced his growing reputation during this year’s Spring Racing Carnival. Having finished runner-up – by the narrowest of margins – in the Group 1 Epsom Handicap (1600m), he followed up with an eye-catching third in the Cox Plate, where he stormed home after starting from the outside barrier.
Those performances elevated his international rating to 118, two ahead of his stablemate Melody Belle, who claimed an astonishing 10th Group 1 success in the TAB Empire Rose Stakes held over The All-Star Mile distance of 1600 on AAMI Victoria Derby Day (2 November).
Melody Belle, picture Quentinjlang.com
One week later, the five-year-old mare returned to Flemington and lost no admirers when she charged home late to grab second place behind Magic Wand in the Group 1 Mackinnon Stakes (2000m).
“The All-Star Mile is a great concept and we’re excited to be part of it by nominating Te Akau Shark and Melody Belle,” said Richards.
“They both deserved a spell in the paddock after their spring campaigns, the Shark came back into the stable this week and Melody Belle will return on Monday. Te Akau Shark will most likely kick-off in an open sprint here in Nez Zealand, and Melody Belle will probably have a few trials at home with a view to starting her off in the Futurity Stakes at Caulfield.
“Melody Belle is a proven Group 1 performer and the Shark has plenty of ‘X Factor’, so we’re very excited about their autumn campaigns. Both horses did us proud during the Spring Racing Carnival, and we’d like to think they now have enough fans both here and in Australia to get into the top 10.
“It’s a great reflection of New Zealand racing that we have three high-profile horses entered for The All-Star Mile, and if they got there I’m sure all three would have a great chance of winning the race. Catalyst looks the real deal, he’s head and shoulders above every other three-year-old over here, so I’m looking forward to seeing how he’ll measure up in Australia.”
Whilst both Te Akau Shark and Melody Belle are very familiar to Australian audiences, Catalyst is less well-known but that could be about to change if he garners enough votes to gain a place in The All-Star Mile.
The only defeat of Catalyst’s career came on his debut in April this year, since when the three-year-old has notched five wins on the spin – including most recently in the Group 1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m), where he started the dominant $1.20 favourite and duly won with consummate ease.
Catalyst’s maiden appearance on Australian soil is likely to come in the Group 3 Manfred Stakes (1200m) at Caulfield on Saturday, 1 February, before two scheduled starts at Flemington beginning with the Group 3 CS Hayes Stakes (1400m) on 15 February.
Two weeks later, he will target Group 1 glory in the $1 million Australian Guineas (1600m) – the race Mystic Journey won en route to her triumph in the inaugural edition of The All-Star Mile.
Nominations for the 2020 edition will close at 12pm (AEST) on Thursday, 9 January, with the voting period scheduled to open one week later on 16 January.
The Kiwi stars join Australia’s standout miler of this year’s Spring Racing Carnival, dual Group 1 winner Fierce Impact, and Queensland’s popular Caulfield Guineas (1600m) runner-up Alligator Blood among the early entries for The All-Star Mile.