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NZ stablemates primed for Queen Elizabeth

Melody Belle wins the Empire Rose Stakes at Flemington.
Melody Belle will be one of two Queen Elizabeth Stakes runners for trainer Jamie Richards.

Jamie Richards cannot split stablemates Te Akau Shark and Melody Belle as the star duo prepare to clash in the $2 million Queen Elizabeth Stakes.

While stable jockey Opie Bosson has been forced to choose between two of his favourite horses, opting to ride Te Akau Shark, Richards is sitting on the fence, happy to have two live chances.

“I find it hard to split them,” Richards said.

“But Opie has always been very impressed with The Shark all the way through and thought he was one of the best ones we’ve had so he wanted to stick with him.”

Outside champion horseman Chris Waller, who saddles up an incredible five Queen Elizabeth runners, Richards is the only trainer with more than one starter.

It is an achievement the New Zealander is proud of, especially in the current climate which has him quarantined in his homeland and managing his Sydney autumn carnival team remotely.

“I’m very proud of both horses. It’s a privilege for our stable to have a couple of horses of their calibre who we can take to the races,” Richards said.

“This has been the grand final this preparation for both of our horses so hopefully we can get them there in really good order.”

Te Akau Shark is regarded as the biggest threat to the international raiders, Japan’s Danon Premium and England’s Adeyybb which sit atop early markets.

He has been passed fit to start by Racing NSW veterinarians after recovering from a minor foot issue which emerged after he was a luckless and beaten favourite in the George Ryder Stakes.

Te Akau Shark had previously scored a breathtaking victory in the Chipping Norton Stakes and that is the form Richards expects to see at Randwick on Saturday.

“If he can recapture anywhere near his Chipping Norton win he’s going to be right in the thick of the finish,” Richards said.

Kerrin McEvoy has picked up the mount on Melody Belle who backs up from a brave fourth in the Doncaster when she lumped a big weight and had a wide run.

She has been kept fresh with a trip to the beach and some light work, including a Tuesday morning canter with McEvoy in the saddle.

Importantly, Melody Belle has proven she can handle a quick turnaround, winning the Empire Rose Stakes in the spring and beating all bar international Magic Wand in the Mackinnon Stakes seven days later.

She was nominated for the Coolmore Legacy Stakes (1600m) on Saturday’s program but the Queen Elizabeth was always the preference.

“We nominated for the Coolmore but I just think on the back up she needs 2000-metres. That’s the reason we went towards this race,” Richards said.

“Off her spring form in the Mackinnon where she was beaten by Magic Wand, I think if she’d had a little more luck in running and drew a barrier then she is a chance of beating that mare (that day) and it is world-class form.”

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