LADY Carla threw down the gauntlet to the colts when she retained her unbeaten record in the most emphatic style, winning the Vodafone Oaks by nine lengths after being eased by Pat Eddery several yards short of the post, writes Jim McGrath. The daughter of Caerleon relished the fast ground by annihilating her opposition, including the game runner-up Pricket, sent off the 7-4 favourite. The battle that threatened to develop three furlongs out became, instead, a procession. Pricket, who had no answer to the winner's powerful surge of power in the finish, held on for second, with a gap of a length and a half to Mezzogiorno, who ran on well for third. Camporese made up significant ground from the rear to take fourth. Wafic Said, Lady Carla's owner, later revealed: 'Henry Cecil was more confident about her chances this morning than the rest of us put together.' Syrian-born Said must have been on a lucky roll when he visited Newmarket sales ring in 1994. He purchased Bosra Sham for 530,000 guineas - the highest price paid anywhere in the world for a filly that year - and also Lady Carla for 220,000 guineas. Lady Carla won the Oaks with such authority that it seems a logical step for her to take on the colts in the Budweiser Irish Derby. She certainly has the galloping ability and physical strength to give a good account of herself, but neither Said nor Cecil was being rushed into a decision. 'I leave that sort of thing to the trainer,' said the owner diplomatically. Cecil was sending out his fourth Oaks winner, supplementing the impressive list of Oh So Sharp, Diminuendo and Snow Bride, while Eddery was taking his third, following up victories with Polygamy and Scintillate. Eddery is never one to compare horses of different generations, and always wary of being drawn into making grand statements. However, if this is not the best middle-distance filly he has ridden, it will come as a great surprise. There were no excuses for the beaten horses, naturally enough. Simon Crisford, racing manager to Godolphin, said: 'Pricket just found one too good today, and we will wait and see about future plans. She was running and travelling well turning for home, but then the other filly kicked and Pricket just stayed on. There will be another day for her.' Mezzogiorno was a particularly game third, and Cash Asmussen, her partner, said: 'She gave me a great ride. There was a bit of a barging match at the top of the hill, but I was behind most of it.'