Cousins’ 2012 Schweppes Oaks Trifecta?

Co-trainers and cousins Mathew Ellerton and Simon Zahra are preparing to saddle up three smart fillies in the other race running at Morphettville this Saturday, the Schweppes Australasian Oaks 2012.

Empress Rock

Empress Rock is the filly to beat in the 2012 Schweppes Oaks on Saturday according to rival trainer Simon Zahra

The $400,000 Group 1 Schweppes Oaks (2000m) plays second fiddle to the day’s other elite level, the $400,000 Group 1 Robert Sangster Stakes (1200m) this year where the undefeated Black Caviar vies for her 20th straight success.

Ellerton and Zahra may not have a representative in this year’s Robert Sangster Stakes field but they are well represented in the Australasian Oaks with Secret Liaison, Sharnee Rose and Spelldancer.

Of the trio it is Secret Liaison in barrier 11, into 10 with emergencies out, who is the best fancied paying $11 in the Schweppes Oaks odds at

The Artie Schiller filly was last seen running a brave third behind top Kiwi three-year-old Full Of Spirit in the Group 3 Adrian Knox Stakes (2000m) at Randwick, Saturday her first look at Morphettville.

“Secret Liaison goes back in her races so barrier 11 shouldn’t worry her as she’s looking for the distance,” Zahra said.

Sharnee Rose and Spelldancer meanwhile are two of the roughies in the race paying $41 and $81 respectively to score a sensational upset.

A daughter of Nadeem, Sharnee Rose comes off an eighth place finish over 1400-metres at Flemington and hasn’t raced further than a mile to date.

“Sharnee Rose usually settles midfield but she’s going to need a soft run,” Zahra said.

“She’s jumping from the 1400 metres to 2000 metres and whether or not she’s got the grounding for 2000 metres remains to be seen.

“She’s a quality filly who has been running into rock-hard track so the jar out of the ground will only help her.”

Churchill Downs filly Spelldancer also ran eighth last start and goes to the 2000-metres for the first time in the Oaks, she also has the second widest gate to overcome.

“Spelldancer generally goes forward so (barrier 19) is a bit tricky,” Zahra admitted.

Current favourite in the Schweppes Oaks betting markets is the Bart Cummings-trained Empress Rock at $4.40.

She is followed by her last start Schweppervescence Stakes conqueror Crucial ($6.50) and the Robert Smerdon-trained improver Red Typhoon ($6.50).

Zahra said all three of their fillies would appreciate a bit of give in the ground hoping the rain fell and downgraded the track from its current Dead (5) into the Slow range by Saturday, but even with a soft track the favourite would be hard to beat.

“All three will appreciate some rain about, but, realistically, if Empress Rock returns to her autumn form she’s going to be very hard to beat,” he said.

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