More than a decade has passed since Troy Harris rode his last Group One winner and the Cambridge jockey has the opportunity to break that drought at Te Rapa tomorrow.
Harris will be aboard three-time Group One winner Melody Belle in the Gr. 1 BCD Group Sprint and he said he is lucky to be riding the Jamie Richards-trained runner after receiving a stay of proceedings for a recent suspension.
“I got a stay of proceedings, so I will have my hearing next Wednesday at Te Aroha,” Harris said. “It was a bit touch and go whether I could ride her or not. I only got the decision on Tuesday that I could ride her. Once I got the okay I was pretty rapt.”
Harris is delighted to get the ride and be reunited with a stable he spent so much of his career riding for.
“It’s an awesome opportunity, I jumped at the chance to ride her,” Harris said. “I was apprenticed to Te Akau, so it’s good to get back on one of theirs in a big race. I worked there for a good seven to eight years. They have given me a few big winners, so it’s good.”
One of those big winners was Tell A Tale, who Harris rode to win the Gr. 1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas in 2008 for Te Akau’s New Zealand trainer at the time, Mark Walker.
It was a standout year for Harris, who just one month prior won his first Group One with Dezigna in the Gr. 1 Captain Cook Stakes at Trentham.
Tell A Tale’s victory in the Guineas was Harris’ last at Group One level and after riding Melody Belle in work and drawing barrier two, he is upbeat that he can add another to his tally on Saturday.
“I galloped her on Saturday and Tuesday and on her work on Tuesday I really think she is one of the ones to beat for sure in that race,” he said.
“We’ve got the barrier draw too. She’s always quite nice to ride, so she will just put herself right there and with a soft run I think she will be really hard to beat.
“From (barrier) two I can pretty much ride her from wherever I want, so I’ll just wait until I talk with Jamie and see how he wants her ridden.”
Melody Belle finished third in the Gr. 1 Sistema Railway on New Year’s Day at Ellerslie and was unplaced in the Gr. 1 Telegraph at Trentham last start and Harris believes his charge is back on track for Saturday.
“I know she failed last start (in the Telegraph), but I went over and galloped her and I couldn’t fault her at all, I thought her work was great,” Harris said.
“If she drew a barrier she wouldn’t have been beaten in the Railway and I would put it down to an off day last start down at Wellington.”
Harris has experienced a resurgence in his flat riding career after being forced to ride over fences for a period of time after struggling with his weight. But he is winning that battle and a Group One victory on the weekend would be a rewarding result for those efforts.
“My weight is great at the moment, I have been riding 56 kilos,” he said.
“I’m not wasting at all, I’m having dinner every night. I feel great going to the races now, after previous years where I had to waste to drop a few kilos. You just feel terrible and you don’t want to be there, but it’s good now.”