New Zealand’s wonder filly Scarlett Lady will resume racing at home next month, the Graham Rogerson-trained star preparing to travel down under for a 2011 Melbourne Cup crusade.
A rising Savabeel four-year-old, Scarlett Lady hit the headlines in Australia when connections bought her over for the Brisbane Winter Racing Carnival.
At the end of her campaign she went home a dual Group winner in Oz having scored commanding wins in both the Group 3 The Roses (2020m) and Group 1 Queensland Oaks (2400m).
Scarlett Lady’s winter feats emulated those of a great Kiwi champion before her, the Sheila Laxon-trained Ethereal who won those same two races in 2001 before returning to Australia in the spring to take out the coveted Caulfield Cup – Melbourne Cup double.
With six wins and two minor placings to her name from just 10 starts to date, Scarlett Lady is shaping up as a genuine Group stayer and the iconic $6 million Group 1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) could well be within her reach according to connections.
“I think she’s something very special and could be the best horse I’ve trained,” Rogerson said.
“She should be a realistic chance in the big cups.”
Purchased for just $25,000 at the 2009 New Zealand Bloodstock Premier Yearling Sale by owner Max Whitby, Scarlett Lady has already won $456,987 in earnings.
If she succeeds in repeating the success of Ethereal by winning the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups this year, Scarlett Lady’s career income will skyrocket with the Caulfield Cup first prize set at $1.5 million while the Melbourne Cup winner will win $3.6 million.
Rogerson has already planned the path Scarlett Lady will take on her Melbourne Cup campaign, his stable ace set to resume in the Hawke’s Bay $200,000 Group 1 Challenge Stakes (1400m) at Hastings on August 27.
“She will gallop between races and somewhere in mid-August, before she goes to Hastings,” Rogerson said.
New Zealand’s Challenge Stakes is one of the five elite level races Rogerson plans to run Scarlett Lady in this spring preparation, her ambitious operation to culminate in the world’s richest handicap at Flemington on Tuesday November 1.
Following the Challenge Stakes, where the filly will face a star-studded field that will likely include fellow Melbourne Cup-bound Kiwis Jimmy Choux and Wall Street, Scarlett Lady will head across the Tasman ready to tackle the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival majors.
Her Melbourne debut is pencilled in for September 17, Scarlett Lady to contest the $350,000 Group 1 Underwood Stakes (1800m) at Caulfield.
She will then move on to the $500,000 Group 1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m) at Flemington on October 2 before tacking the first of the major spring cups, the $2.5 million Caulfield Cup (2400m) on October 15.
Rogerson also plans to throw in a nomination for Scarlett Lady into the richest weight-for-age showdown in Australasia, the 2011 Cox Plate at Moonee Valley on October 22, but has said she is an unlikely accepter for the $3 million showdown.
Stepping back down from the Caulfield Cup distance of 2400 metres to the 2040 metres of the Cox Plate before the testing two-miles of the Melbourne Cup could be a detrimental plan for Scarlett Lady.
“We can always run her in the Mackinnon if we want but I think she will go straight into the (Melbourne Cup),” Rogerson said.
The $1 million Group 1 Mackinnon Stakes (2000m) takes place at Flemington on Victoria Derby Day, Saturday October 29, and would mean Scarlett Lady would have to back up just three days later in the Melbourne Cup field.
While a testing task, the legendary ‘Cups King’ Bart Cummings has always run his Melbourne Cup hopefuls on Victoria Derby Day and Rogerson may consider taking a page out of the maestro’s book with Scarlett Lady.
Having returned to work after just a short spell following her unbeaten run in Queensland, Scarlett Lady is in top form and looks a treat according to Rogerson.
“She only had two and a half weeks out and looks fantastic,” he said.
Rogerson, who trains in partnership with his wife Debbie, will also be represented at this year’s Spring Carnival by a number of other runners including Cox Plate-bound Shootoff.
Pre-nomination betting markets on the Melbourne Cup have last year’s runner-up Maluckyday as the $13 favourite followed by defending Melbourne Cup winner Americain and the Danny O’Brien-trained Shamrocker at $15.
Scarlett Lady occupies the next line of Melbourne Cup betting at $17.