‘It just didn’t make sense to be there’: Pepper strikes Opal fortune after walking out on Canberra

“She’s definitely one of the better two-year-olds I’ve ridden,” Pepper said. “She’s just so natural-and she always she has been.

“She won her first start really well, and we had all these big plans for Black Opals and everything else as you do with a two-year-old winning their first start, but unfortunately she pulled up lame the next day. She had a hairline fracture in her tibia bone. We were able to give her all the time she needed with rehab and the rest of it.

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“She has come back a much bigger, more furnished filly, so we may have been lucky there. Even though it was due to injury, the break may have been a blessing in disguise.”

Jockey Kerrin McEvoy will take over on Opal Ridge, which was an equal third pick at $9 with Sportsbet on Thursday. She is due to jump from barrier one, and Pepper said the main concern would be whether she will handle Sydney’s waterlogged tracks.

“The heavy track is the obvious question mark,” he said. “She raced on a pretty soft track here the other day and she got through it pretty well, and I think the majority of the field are in the same boat. You don’t really know until you run them on it.”

Annabel Neasham’s Golden Slipper runner Sweet Ride and resuming stablemate Voldemort, who was placed in the group 3 Kindergarten Stakes last start, were the joint $6 favorites with Sportsbet for the juvenile race, the last to be run in Sydney for the 2021-22 season.

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