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Ridge ready for Tiara redemption

Wed 26 June 2024

By Brad Bishop 

Last year’s beaten favourite primed for Tattersall’s Tiara redemption. 

The presence of Bella Nipotina means the task facing Opal Ridge in this Saturday's Tattersall's Tiara is no easier than last year, but Luke Pepper is confident his stable star heads into the Eagle Farm feature off the right preparation.

The daughter of Rubick finished fifth as $4.20 favourite last year at the sixth run of a preparation that started with victory in the Listed Darby Munro Stakes more than three months earlier.

The 1400 metre event will this year be the third run of a campaign that has been geared solely around Australia's final Group 1 of the season.

"Last year she'd had a lengthy three-year-old campaign that extended deep into the season up here, then she only had five weeks out and was set for The Kosciuszko," Pepper said.

"So, we decided to miss the autumn and set her for this campaign and this is the one race we've had in mind.

"If she gets the job done it will be amazing to have pulled off the plan."

Opal Ridge will have 16 rivals in the $700,000 event, having drawn barrier five with Tommy Berry to ride.

The race is headlined by Bella Nipotina (barrier 17), who has won the Doomben 10,000 and finished runner-up in the Kingsford Smith Cup and Stradbroke Handicap at her past three runs, and while Pepper concedes she is a daunting rival, he isn't losing sleep over her presence.

"She's an unbelievable mare and she'll obviously be hard to beat if she's on her A-game, but I can only concentrate on my horse, getting the job right and having her as good as I can get her," he said.

"I couldn't be happier with her."

Opal Ridge's campaign got off to the perfect start, winning the Listed Ortensia Stakes at her home track on May 18, before what Pepper described as a forgivable eighth placing in the Group 2 Moreton Cup on the Queensland Oaks card.

"She was brilliant at Scone, then I think there was a bit of second-up syndrome," he said.

"That was an interesting day. There were 100/1 shots winning and we just weren't in the right spot.

"But, she came through it in good order and has really gone on with it since."