New Zealand news briefs

 Melody Belle wins Randwick trial

Star Kiwi mare Melody Belle has continued preparations towards her expected return in the Gr.2 Missile Stakes (1200m) with a win in a star-studded barrier trial at Randwick.

Three heats for Group horses were conducted on Randwick's Kensington track on Friday morning having been pushed back from Tuesday because of the recent wet weather in Sydney.

The Jamie Richards-trained 10-time Group One winner Melody Belle finished strongly between runners under jockey Kerrin McEvoy late in her trial over 850m on a heavy track to win by a half-length over dual Group One winner Fierce Impact.

Quackerjack was a close third in the same heat.

Melody Belle is scheduled to make her return in Saturday week's Missile Stakes at Rosehill ahead of the Gr.1 Winx Stakes (1400m) at Randwick two weeks later.

“She was out there to do a little bit because she is an older mare now and she usually takes a run to come right,” Richards said.

“There are going to be a lot of nice horses resuming in the Winx Stakes and if we have a run beforehand in the Missile, we might just have that fitness edge a little bit whereas they’re kicking off and getting ready for a bit further ahead.”

Stablemate Probabeel also had a quiet trial over 850m and is likely to return in the Gr.3 Show County Quality (1200m) at Randwick on August 22.

“She was outpaced a little bit over the shorter distance but her last couple of hundred was very good,” Richards said. “She needs blinkers and she needs better ground.”

Aigne heads Myers five-timer

Central Districts trainer Kevin Myers enjoyed a day out at Awapuni on Friday, saddling five winners.

The wily conditioner linked with rider Shaun Fannin to win four of the five jumps races with Bakela, Ave Maria, Albaron and Napolean, but it was the flat victory of staying and jumping all-rounder Aigne in the Eddie Carson Memorial Parliamentary Handicap (2100m) that proved one of the highlights of the day. 

Confidently ridden by Sam O’Malley, Aigne showed a great turn of foot late to demolish his rivals by six and a half lengths, providing a tonic for owner and former trainer Neil O’Dowd, who is still feeling the effects of an accident with a former stablemate a couple of months ago.

“I’m getting better, but I failed the concussion test the other day and still have blurred vision,” O’Dowd said.

“It was a brilliant win today. He just seems to be getting better with age.

“We were looking at hurdles for him – Waikato, Manawatu and Hawke’s Bay – but I said to Kevin don’t be afraid to have a crack at the Winter Cup (Gr.3, 1600m) if you are taking a truck down to Christchurch.

“I will talk to Kevin and leave it to him. He is training him now.”

O’Dowd said the A$300,000 Jericho Cup (4600m) at Warrnambool in December remains a possible long-range target for Aigne, who finished sixth in the race last year, and a qualifying race at New Plymouth on September 26 would again be considered.