Rock Diva to pay late fee for run in NZ Oaks

BARRY LICHTER
Last updated 18:03 05/03/2014

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"Just put as much on as you like.''

Those few words, from top jockey Leith Innes, were meant for trainer Tony Pike but they would have sent any punters within earshot rushing to back Rock Diva in the New Zealand Oaks.

For the only conclusion you could draw from the way the scopey filly won today's $70,000 McKee Family Sunline Vase was that she was clearly the one to beat in the $300,000 New Zealand Oaks at Trentham on March 15.

Innes told Pike how the filly relaxed beautifully back in the field and when he gave her what he described as not even the tiniest squeeze with his heels, she rocketed forward.

"I thought I was going to get there miles too soon,'' said Innes, shaking his head at how easily Rock Diva ran out the 2100 metres.

Pike said he would now pay the late fee to get Rock Diva into the Oaks. The veteran of just four starts she was not even named nor had barrier trialled when the entries were taken for the race.

The path mirrors that of last season's Oaks winner More Than Sacred who also was not entered originally by Pike.

"She was a lovely big, scopey filly who looked like she would take time, which she has,'' Pike said.

"She was a touch weak to start with, never showed a lot in her work, and was in and out (of work) a fair bit. But she's really put it together this preparation and is a natural stayer.''

Rock Diva is just another in a long line of terrific racehorses ownedby Raffles Dancers, whose bloodstock is managed by astute sometime race commentator Bruce Sherwin.

A $200,000 Karaka yearling buy from Velachi Downs, the Lucky Unicorn filly was an almost decreed buy for Raffles being a half sister to their first Australasian Group I winner Shamrocker, winner of the ATC Derby, VRC Oaks and Australian Guineas.

"Even if she never wins another race she's already a very valuable broodmare,'' Pike said.

But the way Rock Diva strode to her two length win over favourite Moozoon and Hot Rod augured well for her winning a Group I race in only 10 days.

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