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Luke Pepper’s Opal Ridge hoping to master Kosciuszko

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Opal Ridge’s trainer Luke Pepper says history leaves him in no doubt that going first-up from a spell into The Kosciuszko at Randwick next month will give his mare her best chance of winning the race.

The Scone-based mentor believes the four-year-old is coming along exactly as he would like in readiness for the $2 million feature over 1200m on 14 October.

“I couldn’t be happier with her,” Pepper said.

“She’s in terrific order. After every prep she’s gone out for a spell and come back bigger and stronger.

“So, I’m really looking forward to seeing her race again.”

But, Pepper will wait until the big day of her main target race before that happens, because Opal Ridge has a history of racing very well fresh.

She won at her very first start in a race, in January 2022, and again at the start of her second and third campaigns in July 2022 and February 2023.

And, the past two Kosciuszkos have been won by horses racing first-up – Front Page last year and Art Cadeau in 2021.

Members of the public can buy $5 tickets in the slot draw for The Kosciuszko via the TAB App or from their local pub, club or TAB agency, or at race meetings.

The 14 winning slot-holders will be drawn on 8 September and they can then negotiate an agreement on a prizemoney share with the connections of a NSW county-trained or ACT-trained galloper and have that horse run for them.

Opal Ridge is the equal favourite with Far Too Easy at $4.50 in TAB Fixed Odds betting on The Kosciuszko.

“She’s been dynamite first-up all along,” Pepper said.

“It’s just a proven formula with her, something that she’s always been able to do – race great fresh – so I’ve got no qualms about running first-up in The Kosciuszko.

“It’s not like she was out in the paddock for a hell of long time either.

“She just had a nice freshen-up from her winter carnival campaign in Brisbane and she carried through a bit of residual fitness from that.

“So, everything’s on track. She was looking for a break by the end of her Brisbane campaign and she’s had that now.

“She’ll run in a barrier trial at Randwick on 22 September and that’ll give us three weeks to tighten the screws and have her ready to rock in the big race.

“She’s never been a horse that takes a lot of work to get her fit.

“Opal Ridge’s incredibly well-winded and very easy to train.

“We just try to keep her happy and she usually responds very well to that approach.”

Pepper says the quality of The Kosciuszko as a race continues on an upward spiral.

“I think it’s a credit to those trainers who produced the horses to win the past couple of Kosciuszkos first-up,” he said.

“I believe it’s a credit to all of the country trainers who get their horses to this race.

“The standard has gone up.

“We’ve had to get better horses and be better trainers and it’s races like this and the level of competition that is involved that has made those things happen.

“Front Page and Art Cadeau are class horses.

“It may be a race for country horses, but it’s definitely strong and not easy to win.”

  • Greg Prichard

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