This long weekend marks red letter days for three South Australian apprentice jockeys.
Ben Price and Angus Chung are set to have their first race rides at Friday’s Murray Bridge meeting, while rising star Jacob Opperman tackles his first metropolitan class meeting at Gawler on Saturday.
Price has already attracted plenty of attention prior to launching his race riding career, thanks to his family’s racing history. His father Simon is a Group 1-winning hoop, well known to SA racing fans, while his brother Will is among the hottest apprentice prospects in Victoria.
Price has three mounts at Murray Bridge, including rides for the Tony and Calvin McEvoy stable, Michael Hickmott and Stuart Gower.
“This is something I’ve been looking forward to for a while now,” said Price.
“It’s good to finally have my name down on some nice quality horses and I was quite surprised to get such good support from the get go.
“To get a ride for a G1-winning stable like the McEvoys is great. Michael’s been flying of late, and of course Dad’s had a lot of success with Stuart Gower.”
The 18-year-old said while his family is looking forward to Friday, nerves would be a factor.
“Yeah, I’ll probably be nervous,” he said.
“Mum will too, but she’ll be right.”
Hong Kong apprentice Angus Chung is also scheduled to make race-day debut at Murray Bridge for his master, Jon O’Connor. Chung, 24, has been booked to ride Xingyun in race six.
Meanwhile Saturday is the significant day for South East-based apprentice Opperman, who has generated plenty of buzz during his short, but winner-filled career to date. With 35 victories already under his belt (at a 13 per cent winning strike rate) since his first ride earlier this year, the 17-year-old has enjoyed a productive 2020 and is chasing further success.
“I feel confident going into the meeting,” Opperman said.
“My manager, Nadia (Horne), has done a good job getting the book of rides I’ve got, so hopefully it’s a good day out at Gawler.
“It’ll definitely be a step up, but I’m ready for it.”
Opperman says he has “come a fair way” since his first ride and paid credit to SA jockey coach Darryn Murphy.
“He’s helped me a lot in the past six months,” Opperman said.
“He rings me up after each race meeting and gives me feedback on what I should and shouldn’t do.”
Pre-race jitters are unlikely to be a problem for Opperman, as he is already familiar with the Gawler circuit and was more out of his comfort zone during recent trips across the border.
“I was more nervous going to Victoria than racing in metro class at Gawler,” he said.
“My first meeting was Warrnambool and that was a good experience, then I went to Geelong the other day and that was also a good experience, even though it was a heavy track. I got to go there with Melbourne Cup winner Jye McNeil, which was good.”
Nonetheless, knocking off his first metropolitan win is now the immediate goal.
“Hopefully it’s Olive Grove for Aimee Bush on Saturday,” he said.
“I rode it at Gawler for Aimee’s second career win a couple of weeks ago.”
New apprentice jockey Ben Price will finally hit SA race tracks this long weekend.