When Ross Lao first laid eyes on Sakura Girl (NZ) (Iffraaj) at Karaka two years ago, just two words entered his mind – Oaks filly.
Business partner Andy Lau shared the same judgement of the daughter of Iffraaj and they went to $260,000 to secure the then juvenile out of Riverrock Farm’s 2021 New Zealand Bloodstock Ready To Run Sale draft under their Upper Bloodstock banner.
The Hong Kong pair entrusted her to the care of Cambridge trainer Ben Foote and they are hoping their dream with the filly comes to fruition in the Gr.1 Queensland Oaks (2200m) at Eagle Farm on Saturday.
“The day I bought that filly, the first thing I told the trainer (Foote) was that ‘I have got you an Oaks horse, please go and win an Oaks for me’,” Lao told Racing Queensland.
“She has that type of pedigree and on look she is that type of horse that can run that trip.
“I think New Zealand fillies are good, staying horses in general and are a bit stronger than the ones here (Australia).”
Sakura Girl will be looking for redemption this weekend after she faded to finish sixth in the Gr.1 New Zealand Oaks (2400m) at Trentham in March after setting a strong tempo upfront.
She had been one of the favoured runners for her home Classic following her runner-up performance behind Prowess in the Gr.2 David & Karyn Ellis Fillies Classic (2000m) at Te Rapa in February and subsequent victory in the Gr.3 Sunline Vase (2100m).
She returned from a brief freshen-up to finish runner-up at weight-for-age level in the Gr.2 Travis Stakes (2000m) in April to seal her trip across the Tasman where she finished third first-up in the Gr.2 The Roses (2000m) at Doomben last month.
Foote was happy enough with the result but expects to see improvement from his filly on Saturday.
“It was a good effort but it didn’t go quite to plan,” Foote said.
“We got in a nice spot and they slowed up a bit in front so Opie (Bosson, jockey) elected to hook out and go around them, which could have been the difference between running third and even possibly winning the race. She will definitely improve from the run.
“As long as she gets out and gets in a rhythm and everything goes to plan, I am sure she will run it out.”
Sakura Girl has been installed a $12 fourth favourite for the Eagle Farm feature, with the Gary Portelli-trained Fireburn at the top of the market at $3.20.
Closer to home on Saturday, Foote is looking forward taking three members of his team to Avondale, including debutant Charmer (NZ) (Charm Spirit) in the Onloc Locations 2YO Maiden 1200 and Lucky Charm (NZ) (Charm Spirit) in the Ramona Day Memorial Maiden 1200, while Girls Light Up (NZ) (Sacred Falls) is dual accepted for the Great Southern Television 3YO SWP 1200 and Westbrook Cellar Door Waimauku Rating 65 1200.