IN 2012, Luke Pepper became known as the South Coast’s “Cups King” and the Moruya trainer was this week confident that his reign would continue into 2013.
The South Coast cup season will get underway on Monday with the running of the prestigious Narooma Cup at Moruya, where Pepper will hope to go back-to-back with gun gelding Quichang.
The eight-year-old will again have apprentice jockey Taylor Lovelock-Wiggins in the saddle after the pair teamed up to take out last year’s Narooma Cup.
And Pepper said yesterday he was confident of making it two in a row, despite a wide barrier draw (12).
“I couldn’t be happier with the horse,” he told the Bay Post/Moruya Examiner.
“His two runs leading into it have been spot on and our only drama is drawing 12. That’s a bit of a pain in the backside but he’s going as good as ever.
“He’s got good gate speed – you obviously need a bit of luck from out there but he should put himself straight across the field and get a nice run. If he gets any sort of nice run, he should be hard to beat.”
Quichang’s latest appearance was at Wagga Wagga last month, where he crossed the line fourth in a nail-biting finish.
Lovelock-Wiggins, who has ridden Quichang to victory six times since 2008, was in the saddle on that occasion and Pepper said the pair has struck up an impressive partnership.
“I don’t know how many he’s won on the horse now but the horse just seems to run for him,” he said.
Pepper was delighted with the gelding’s form at Wagga Wagga and he said the signs were good for Monday’s big race.
“The horse went super (at Wagga Wagga), he was second-up and he just needed the run,” he said.
“He sort of died on the run about 50 (metres) out but it’s all been aiming towards Monday and everything is spot on.”
Lovelock-Wiggins had just finished track work duties when the Bay Post/Moruya Examiner informed him of the wide barrier draw.
Despite that “ordinary” news, the young jockey remained upbeat about his chances of defending his Narooma Cup crown.
“That’s a bit ordinary, but I’ll sort something out from there,” Lovelock-Wiggins said.
“He seems to like his home track and I don’t think the horse has any problems of ageing a year and backing up into the race, so I don’t see why he wouldn’t be competitive.”
Pepper and Lovelock-Wiggins will also team up with last-start winner Magic Franco in the benchmark 55 handicap over 1200m.