Star Kiwi sensation Scarlett Lady sent an early warning to any of her potential Melbourne Spring Carnival rivals with an ultra dominant display in Eagle Farm’s Group 1 Queensland Oaks on Saturday.
A diminutive but top-class three-year-old filly from the stables of Graeme and Debbie Rogerson in New Zealand, Scarlett Lady followed in the footsteps of fellow glamour Kiwi Ethereal, backing up from her Group 3 The Roses (2020m) win at Doomben a fortnight ago to become an elite level winner with a blistering victory in this year’s $400,000 Group 1 Queensland Oaks (2400m).
Ethereal achieved the same winning double a decade ago before coming back to Australia during the spring of 2011 to dominant that season’s rich staying showdowns, taking out both the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups.
Now it seems the racing world has found another Ethereal, Scarlett Lady outclassing and outstaying a quality field of fellow three-year-olds today to make it six wins on the trot.
The Queensland Oaks success was a maiden Group 1 trio for horse, jockey and sire – Scarlett Lady becoming the first Group 1 winner in Australia for emerging Kiwi hoop James McDonald.
She was also the first of 2004 Cox Plate winner Savabeel’s offspring to win at the highest level.
Saluting as the clear-priced favourite in the Oaks, Scarlett Lady will now shoot to the top of the odds for next Saturday’s $500,000 Group 1 Queensland Derby on Stradbroke Handicap Day.
But whether connections including ecstatic owner Max Whitby will chose to back her up in the Derby, and likely win, or send her to the paddock to set her for the big spring riches is still to be decided.
Scarlett Lady jumped away well from barrier nine in the Oaks and as predicted was ridden just off the pace by McDonald who settled her back off the leaders that included Nayana and Savannah’s Choice.
When the field bunched up on the turn for home, Scarlett Lady found herself clear at the top of the straight with a strong speed on.
Moving up on the outside, the favourite quickly improved her position and was able to pull away and blot to a nice lead that saw her finish well clear of eventual runner-up, the Lee Freedman-trained Becerra.
Crossing for third was fellow Kiwi filly Shez Sinsational, while the Peter Snowden-trained Divorces did well to come from last in the field up to fourth.
After sweating up badly in the mounting yard, John Saddler’s well-backed Heidilicious went up in the air just after the barriers were released and came out the back, before also putting in a brave effort to finish fifth.
Debbie Rogerson was over the moon after the win, crediting the ride of McDonald.
“To get his first Group 1 win is just amazing,” she said.
“It was a ten out of ten ride.
“He rode it to perfection.”
Whitby was also thrilled with McDonald’s ride.
“He’s a star on the rise,” he said.
Mrs. Rogerson also was happy to heap the praise on now stable star Scarlett Lady.
“She’s a lovely filly, she’s got a great attitude,” Mrs. Rogerson said.
Of next weekend’s Derby, Debbie Rogerson was yet to confirm plans, but hinted at a possible continuation of the ‘Ethereal-plan’ and missing the three-year-olds’ classic in favour of preparing for a big spring.
“We’ll see if she runs in the Derby,” she said.
“We will talk to the connections and see how she comes through this.
“There might be bigger plans for her in the spring.
“That’s what the consideration is.”
Quick to thank the Rogersons and owner Whitby, James McDonald described the Queensland Oaks win as “amazing.”
“She’s very small but has got a big heart,” the young jockey said.
“We got well back in the running but I wasn’t too worried, there was a lot of speed on.
“It’ll be awesome (the spring).”
Max Whitby said he was “nearly speechless” over the win, but still had plenty to say not only about Scarlett Lady but of her sire as well.
“I’m just so prod that’s Savabeel’s first Group 1 winner,” he said.
“I’m thrilled for the stallion.
“Anything to do with Savabeel, Graeme (Rogerson) and I have stuck, stuck, stuck and we’re going to make this stallion.”
During his time on the track, the New Zealand-bred Savabeel, son of champion Kiwi sire Zabeel, was prepared by Graeme Rogerson making this year’s Queensland Oaks win an important one for all those involved.
“I’m back I think,” Whitby said.
When asked about whether he was in favour of having her back up in the Queensland Derby, Whitby said her win today was very convincing, but spring was calling.
“I think there’s some bigger fish to fry later on,” he said.