Luke Pepper ‘in no hurry’ with talented youngster Opal Ridge

Kayla Nisbet drives the Luke Pepper-trained Opal Ridge to victory at Canberra on Friday. Photo: Bradley Photos.

In racing it can be very easy to get carried away with dreams of grandeur, especially when it comes to a two-year-old winning first up. 

Suddenly, talk of the Golden Slipper, Black Opal and other rich races for youngsters are thrown into conversations, and every year we see the same thing happen; the creme rises to the top, while many others are left to wonder what might have been. 

To say there is excitement surrounding the Luke Pepper-trained Opal Ridge would be an understatement, with the two-year-old catching the eye when winning on debut at Canberra on Friday.

Still, Pepper was quick to extinguish all the hype, explaining he will taking his time with Opal Ridge.

“Look, she has shown a lot but, in all honesty, I haven’t made any set in stone plans with her,” Pepper explained to NSW Country and Picnic Racing.

“We will let the dust settle; the horse always comes first. We will give her an easy weekend and reassess and go from there.”

Noises grew louder on Friday night, after the Rubick filly, that is out of Chadana, was forced to take the trail over the 1000m journey at Canberra for jockey Kayla Nisbet, before showing off a devastating turn of foot to win comfortably, recording 57.65 seconds for the five-furlong trip. 

“She has always shown us a lot and we did a lot of work, and she had a lot of education,” Pepper said. 

“She is just so adaptable. She is not just a speed demon, and she had to be adaptable to win on Friday.

“They went quick, and she chased hard and for a young horse to come off the hot tempo, and sprint again like she did; it took a big effort.”

Pepper said there were no secrets regarding the preparation of his chestnut filly, with the Canberra trainer explaining that she simply made a nice two-year-old, and while she was given every chance to show her ability following a good preparation, he explained her progressiveness and maturity were her biggest qualities.

“You can’t train two-year-olds to be two-year-olds,” Pepper laughed.

“They’ve either got it, or they don’t, and she is easy to deal with. She has a great brain, she paraded well, and she didn’t let any pressure get to her.

“We gave her a few jump outs, tipped her out and brought her back and gave her every chance, but she is just the right type of filly, and it was good to get the job done first-up.”

While Pepper did stress there were no plans in place, he explained that Opal Ridge – all going well – would potentially target some feature races this preparation and that her results and improvement would dictate her path.

“I think she is no 1000m horse. The (Black) Opal is going to be over 1200m and that is going to suit her more,” Pepper said. 

“The Millennium is a possibility in two weeks. Honestly, I just think this filly is going to get better as time goes on.

“I’m in no hurry to hammer her in the moment. There is a fair time into the Opal and that might be the game plan at the moment, but we will just see how she goes.”