Local Mare To Launch Carnival Mission At Scone

Luke Pepper believes the best is still ahead for dual stakes winner Opal Ridge, who will be chasing her second feature race win at Scone in as many years when she resumes in the Ortensia Stakes.

The talented mare was triumphant in the Luskin Star Stakes (1300m) on the corresponding program 12 months ago, but this time around she is at a different stage of her preparation and will line up in the shorter Ortensia Stakes (1100m) on Saturday.

The two-day carnival is an important event for Pepper, who hails from Canberra but moved his training operation to Scone two years ago, and he is hopeful Opal Ridge can again do his adopted hometown proud.

“It’s a massive event for Scone these couple of days, the town’s population quadruples in forty-eight hours,” Pepper said.

“It was amazing to win the Luskin Star last year. It was our first Scone Cup carnival and to win a black-type race with her here meant a bit more.”

Opal Ridge was given an extended break after finishing down the track in The Hunter in November.

Pepper believed she was feeling the effects of a busy 12-month period and said the time in the paddock had done its job.

“She had a very intense three-year-old campaign and ended up in Brisbane, and she only had five weeks off before she came back for a crack at the Kosciuszko where she obviously ran second,” Pepper said.

“After that, she was on tired legs.

“We decided to set our sights on the Brisbane winter carnival this year and give her a good break, which she deserved.”

Pepper said Opal Ridge had furnished during her spell, returning “bigger, stronger and more mature”.

She has a lethal first-up record with three wins and a Kosciuszko placing from her four fresh runs, although Pepper cautions he has left room for improvement with next month’s Group 1 Tatt’s Tiara (1400m) in mind.

“Her grand final is the Tatt’s Tiara at the end of June, so there is natural improvement in her, but she has done enough to be ready for her first-up task,” he said.

Opal Ridge comes into barrier 12 following three early scratchings and Pepper says the wide gate is no disadvantage given she enjoys galloping room and there is only one turn to negotiate.

The mare will be the stable’s headline horse across the two-day carnival with Pepper also saddling up a trio of hopefuls at Friday’s Cup day meeting, nominating last start winner Fifty Five Mustang as the best chance of his remaining runners.

– RAS NewsWire

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