Oaks Lady has Ethereal Feel

Graeme Rogerson

Scarlett Lady's trainer Graeme Rogerson

There is an eerie feeling of déjà vu about the Queensland Oaks campaign of gun Kiwi filly Scarlett Lady, the Graeme and Debbie Rogerson-trained three-year-old out to emulate the amazing feats of another New Zealand superstar, Ethereal.

Savabeel filly Scarlett Lady is the raging $3.50 favourite in the pre-field betting for Saturday’s $400,000 Group 1 Queensland Oaks (2400m) at Eagle Farm following recent her string of impressive wins.

Having started nine times to date, Scarlett Lady is unbeaten this prep scoring five successive victories both at home in New Zealand and on Aussie shores.

Her debut Australian run was in the Group 3 The Roses (2020m) at Doomben on May 21, a race where she easily defeated fellow Oaks hopefuls Savannah’s Choice and Divorces.

This was the same race champion Kiwi mare Ethereal won a decade ago on way to her success in the 2011 Queensland Oaks.

A daughter of top American sire Rhythm, Ethereal would go on to give trainer Shelia Laxon the coveted Caulfield Cup / Melbourne Cup double in the spring of that year making Laxon the first female trainer to win the Melbourne Cup.

Following the Queensland Oaks on Saturday, Rogerson has said Scarlett Lady will head back to New Zealand for a spell and will not continue on for a run in the $500,000 Group 1 Queensland Derby (2400m) the next weekend, a race for which she is the narrow $6 second favourite for behind Shootoff.

“Everyone seems to know more than me, but the Derby has not even been discussed,” Rogerson said.

“I doubt she will run (in the Derby).

“She’s booked on a flight home on Tuesday week.

“She can have a break and I’ll get her ready for the spring.”

Ethereal too headed home after her Oaks success and bypassed a run in the Queensland Derby before being bought back for her historic Cups double.

While comparisons between Ethereal and Scarlett Lady are inevitable, Rogerson isn’t quite bold enough to suggest his filly is in the same league as the Melbourne Cup winner.

He does, however, rate her as among the best he’s trained and considers Scarlett Lady as a livewire chance of crossing the Tasman again in the spring for a shot at Cup glory.

“She’s very promising, a great-natured filly who takes everything in her stride,” Rogerson said.

“I’d like to think she can be competitive in the spring.

“There’s still a lot of water to pass under the bridge, but if she’s going well enough I wouldn’t rule anything out.”

Scarlett Lady was a bargain buy at the New Zealand Yearling Sales, purchased by part-owner Max Whitby for just $25,000.

She has already amassed over $110,000 in career prize money to date, and success in the Oaks will see that figure skyrocket.

“I found her at Karaka and really liked her type,” Whitby, also the director of the Australian Turf Club, said.

“I was trying to buy a Savabeel.

“She was a cheap horse but she’s come along way and I’m proud of what she’s done and the fact I picked her out.”

Whitby has a nice association with her bloodline, having also owned her sire Savabeel, their win in the 2004 Cox Plate a career highlight as a long-time thoroughbred owner for Whitby.

He also has hinted at hopes of a Melbourne Spring Carnival campaign for Scarlett Lady next season.

“She has done a great job and I’m hoping she can win the Oaks and then do an Ethereal and win the Caulfield Cup,” Whitby said.

Saturday will be Scarlett Lady’s first start at a distance greater than 2020m, but as her damn On Call was a genuine stayer, Whitby is confident she will make the step up to 2400m without issue.

“Her mother was strong so I don’t think the trip will worry her,” he said.

“And I think there’s a sense of the Caulfield Cup about her.”

Boom Kiwi apprentice jockey James McDonald will maintain his association with Scarlett Lady for the Oaks on Saturday.

After Saturday’s Oaks run, McDonald is also set to return to New Zealand where he will attempt to become the first Kiwi hoop to ride 200 winners in a single season.

McDonald has been aboard for all five of Scarlett Lady’s wins this season and was extremely impressed with her most recent effort in The Roses.

“She has a very good turn of foot for a stayer and the more you ask the more she gives,” McDonald said.

“The first time I won on her (over 1400 on March 12) she flew home from last to just get up.

“It was a huge run.

“She’s just kept improving and improving with each run and has been very good to me.

“I knew she would measure up to the Aussie fillies as she beat older horses before she came over, and there were some Group 1 winners among them.

“She’s up there with some of the best I’ve ridden and hopefully she can come out and do it again in the Oaks.”