Anna Roper has Rising Star Series rivals in a knot

Anna Roper has extended her lead in the 2023/24 Rising Star Series. Image – Racing Photography.

Anna Roper made it back-to-back wins and extended her lead in the 2023/24 Rising Star Series on Tuesday, securing a significant victory on the Denim Wynen-trained Magic Stella at Queanbeyan.

Roper, who made the trip south from Wyong with Wynen, timed her run to perfection, with Magic Stella ($3.80) triumphing in a thrilling three-way finish, defeating the John Rolfe-trained Danjel (Amy McLucas, $41) and the Gregory Hickman-trained Tiger Town (Beany Panya, $4) in a photo-finish. 

Despite racing at Gosford, Wyong, and Taree in recent runs, the Wyong galloper ran well at Queanbeyan, and Roper was thrilled with the result.

“I wasn’t sure if she would handle Queanbeyan, but she had run at Wellington in her early days, and she went quite well,” Roper said. 

“The main concern was whether the track was too firm, but it was quite soft, and she appreciated the bit of give. 

“The other concern was the barrier (8) as I wasn’t sure where we’d get to; she had a lovely run in transit and was really strong today.”

Roper, who’s on 26 points, boasts a four-point lead over nearest rival Amy McLucas (22) in the Rising Star Series, while Zac Wadick (20) and the chasing pack of Ben Osmond (18), Mollie Fitzgerald (17), and Olivia Chambers (17) aren’t far off the pace. 

Roper was on track to feature in the 2022/23 Rising Star Series until a freak accident led to a nine-month injury-enforced absence.

When asked about the apprentice-restricted Racing NSW-run Series, Roper explained that it was never her intention to focus on it. 

Still, following a string of good results, she was firmly fixated on adding the trophy to her mantlepiece.  

“It wasn’t my goal in the early days, and I missed a few heats, and the apprentice’s school was on for the one at Gosford,” Roper said. 

“Then I ran a couple of seconds and won at Taree, and my manager said we should try to win this.

“It’s definitely my goal now; I was close to leading it last season just before I got hurt, and we were really targeting it then, so it’s nice to be on top this season, and I’ll try and win it.”

In a well-documented feat, the talented apprentice, who won her first race ride at Gundagai in April 2022, booted home an incredible 57 wins in her first seven months.

After her injury-enforced break, Roper hit the ground running again, riding another 48 winners in just under five months, taking her career total to 105 victories at a 13 per cent strike rate.

Roper thanked her Master, Damien Lane, and the trainers who have supported her triumphant return, stressing that it wouldn’t have been possible without their faith in her ability. 

“I just can’t believe the support I’ve had, especially with no claim,” Roper said. 

“It means a lot that trainers trust me with no claim, especially in this series, where I’m mostly riding against apprentices with claims.

“Plus, coming back from injury, I thought it would be a lot harder than it has been, and my boss, Damien Lane, has been incredible.

“He managed me when I first came back, and he had never done it before, but he did a terrific job.”

While a career in Sydney beckons for one of the best apprentices in NSW, Roper is happy where she is, even suggesting she was inclined to keep her Wyong base when targeting the NSW Metropolitan Apprentice Jockey’s Premiership in the coming seasons. 

“If I can keep riding out of Wyong, I will because it’s home to me, and Damo has been a great supporter,” Roper said. 

“If push comes to shove, I will move, but right now, I’m really happy, and I’m targeting my Provincial claim this season, and then next season, I’ll work on my metro (Metropolitan) claim and target the metro apprentice premiership.”

For the moment, the Rising Star Series is the apprentice jockey’s focus, and only four heats remain, with Goulburn (30/1) the next cab off the rank ahead of meetings at Randwick (31/1), Dubbo (5/2), and Taree (11/2). 

“I will definitely go to Goulburn and Randwick, and I have rides booked, and I’d like to think I’ll go to Dubbo; I’ve had a lot of luck there,” Roper said.