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Nine out of ten experience for Melody Belle team

Despite being prohibited from attending Caulfield on Saturday, members of the large ownership group behind star New Zealand mare Melody Belle still had the time of their lives on All Star Mile Day.

Measures put in place by the Melbourne Racing Club and the Australian government in response to the current Covid-19 pandemic meant that only trainers, jockeys, strappers and essential raceday staff were allowed on-course at Caulfield on Saturday which had all owners scrambling at the 11th hour to find a location to view the raceday action.

John Galvin, who manages the Melody Belle  Fortuna Syndicate that owns the reigning New Zealand Horse of the Year, was one of those caught up in the frenzied activity as he and wife Jessica sought an alternative venue for the 48-strong tour party in Melbourne to support their pride and joy.

"The news broke overnight on Friday evening regarding the measures put in place so we knew we wouldn't be able to attend," Galvin said.

"We had a support group of 48 people with 26 syndicate members and other family and friends, so there were some frantic communications as we had already picked up all their tickets and had them in envelopes ready to be collected from the hotel.

"I informed everybody and then went about trying to find a venue for I checked out some of the pub tabs but didn't really find anything but then New Zealand Bloodstock's Brent Thompson gave me a call after David Ellis had asked him to give us some help.

"He sorted out a venue for us called the Emerald Hotel in South Melbourne which we locked in but five minutes later I got a call from Greg Carpenter from Racing Victoria telling me they had organised a venue at the Crown Casino where they would host all the owners.

"I had to call Brent back and tell him we would have to cancel the booking he had made for us."

Galvin is highly complementary of the work from all those involved who put the show together at the new venue.

"While it was disappointing not to be at the track, given the facility we had at the casino it was just amazing and a better facility than you would get on-course," he said.

"We had a number of large screens to watch the action finger food and a bar that we shared with all of the owners from the horses in the All Star Mile, so it was a great atmosphere.

"When you are on-course, you only really get to see your horse in the mounting yard and it was pretty much the same although this was on television instead. The anticipation and the build-up was still there and wasn't a detraction at all.

"After the race Jamie (Richards) and Opie (Bosson) came and joined us after they had finished up at the track so that was very good.

"Given the circumstances it really was a nine out of ten experience."

Melody Belle finished a game third behind the West Australian stablemates Regal Power and Superstorm with Galvin upbeat about the performance after the mare had some difficulties clearing traffic approaching the home bend.

"In an ideal world we would have been one off the fence rather than on the rail during the run but circumstances dictated a little where she travelled from her inside draw," he said.

"We were behind Alligator Blood, which you would think would be pretty good, but he didn't really take us into the race whereas Regal Power was in the spot we would have liked and pushed up wide on the turn, which was the winning move.

"We got A$360,000 for running third which is still very good and we are proud of our girl as she lost no admirers.

"We will be discussing it with Jamie and David but she will most likely head to Sydney for the Doncaster (Gr.1, 1 m) in three weeks' time while she will also be nominated for two races a week later, the Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Gr.1, 1 1⁄4 m) and as a precaution, the Coolmore Legacy Stakes (Gr.1, 1600m).

"She is looking for 1 1⁄4 m so she won't do a lot between now and the Doncaster and there is a ninety-five per cent chance she will take on the Queen Elizabeth after that."

With the New Zealand government implementing stringent new travel restrictions from midnight on Sunday, Galvin and most syndicate members were heading home before then with the likelihood they will not return to Sydney next month to support the mare.

"Jessica and I were booked to come back on Sunday as were a number of the owners," he said.

"Some who had chosen to stay on for a few more days have managed to rebook and head home Sunday while there are a few others who have chosen to complete their trip and then self-isolate when they get home.

"It is highly likely there will be the same attendance policy in place at Randwick next month as there was at Caulfield so we don't see the point in heading over to Sydney if that does apply.

"With our new restrictions here, it will make things tough on the Te Akau Racing team as they manage their travel with the horses.

"I think Opie will be heading over on Tuesday to ride Te Akau Shark in trackwork and then will stay on until after The Championships in Sydney while I don't believe Jamie is going back at all given the 14 day self-isolation policy now in place for people returning to New Zealand.

"His dad Paul (Richards) and Ashley Handley are both currently in Sydney with Probabeel and Te Akau Shark so they have it well covered there though."

With her placing on Saturday Melody Belle has now taken her career earnings past the A$3.28million mark after being purchased by David Ellis for $57,500 from Haunui Farm's 2016 Premier Yearling Sale draft at Karaka.

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