Young Kiwi trainer Jamie Richards thinks The All-Star Mile concept is a winner and is hoping he can fly the flag proudly for New Zealand in the inaugural edition at Flemington on Saturday, 16 March.
The 28-year-old has an impressive array of talent within his stable, none more so than budding star Te Akau Shark and multiple Group 1 winner Melody Belle who have both been entered for the new $5 million showpiece of Victoria’s Festival of Racing.
“Racing can be seen as a traditional sport, but as a young trainer trying to make a career in the sport, I think it’s important that we look to the future and ways to get more and new people involved. I think this race is a great concept,” Richards said.
Te Akau Shark, part-owned by Cronulla Sharks captain Paul Gallen, is a winner at five of his six starts and created an enormous impression when winning a Group 2 mile by six lengths in his homeland last November.
“He’s the most exciting galloper to come out of New Zealand in the past three or four years. He was dominant last start and looks a very exciting horse for the future,” Richards said of his four-year-old gelding.
With Te Akau Shark only returning to training in recent weeks, Richards explained that plans for the horse’s return to the racetrack remain open at this time.
“We gave him a month off after that win in November. He’s back in work now and we’ll look to trial him here at the end of January, early February before we firm up our plans,” he stated.
Four-year-old mare Melody Belle, a winner at half of her 16 starts, returned from a three month break with a fast finishing third in the Group 1 Railway Stakes (1200m) in Auckland on New Year’s Day.
A Group 1 weight-for-age winner over 1400m and 1600m last September, the latter over subsequent Cox Plate contender Savvy Coup, Melody Belle is primed for a big 2019 according to Richards.
“She’s come back in really good order. The plan is to run her in the Group 1 Telegraph (1200m) on Saturday week (19 January at Trentham) and then in the BCD Sprint, a 1400m weight-for-age, three weeks later (9 February at Te Rapa),” he explained.
Richards believes the mare is peaking at the right time to be a worthy contender for The All-Star Mile and is hopeful that voters will agree.
“She’s a great honest and consistent mare who just gets the job done,” Richards stated. “She’s a Group 1 winning two-year-old, she’s got form in Australia winning a Sires Produce in Brisbane, and she races well in the distance range.”
The All-Star Mile is the first race in Australia where fans will determine which horses gain a start with each of the nominees eligible for a public vote.
The top 10 horses in the public vote, which commences on 21 January and concludes on 18 February, will secure a start in The All-Star Mile with the remaining four places in the 14-horse field to be made up of wildcards issued by Racing Victoria.
Nominations for The All-Star Mile close on 15 January with 70 horses spread across each state of Australia and New Zealand entered as of 8 January.