Pepper looks for crack at Rosehill meeting

Hill Spy’s ballot position for the Ramornie Handicap has led trainer Luke Pepper to lower his sights to a benchmark race at Rosehill.

Wednesday’s Listed sprint at Grafton was initially on the cards for Hill Spy, but the Canberra-based Pepper will opt for the shorter trip to Sydney for the 1200m-benchmark 77 at Rosehill on Saturday.

“If he got a run in the Ramornie we would have brought him up, but he was number 29 in the ballot and wasn’t looking like he was going to get a run,” Pepper said.

Group Three-placed in his three-year-old season when trained by Robert Smerdon, Hill Spy moved to Ron Daniel before ending up in Pepper’s stable.

He was given a 10-week break after his last-start third in the Wagga Wagga Town Plate and Pepper said keeping Hill Spy fresh was the best way to train him.

“I just thought he needed a little bit of a let-up,” Pepper said.

“He went to the paddock for a week and then he was out on a property doing a bit of pre-training.”

Pepper said Hill Spy had run “out of his skin” at his previous two starts, including a fifth in a Listed race at Morphettville on April 9 when he was less than two lengths from the winner.

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Pepper’s other runner in the race is Appoint Percy, a former New Zealand galloper sent across the Tasman in search of Australian prize money.

Although Appoint Percy has already won a Highway Handicap, Pepper believes the four-year-old’s potential is untapped.

Pepper will try to win another Highway Handicap at Rosehill on Saturday with Stratum’s Star who is dropping back from 1500m to 1200m.

“Back to the six furlongs is definitely more her go,” Pepper said.

“She likes a genuine tempo and she’s got an electrifying turn of foot when she lets go.”

Pepper’s stables were formerly based at Moruya, before he returned to Canberra more than a year ago.

He said the move had been the best decision of his training career.

“We couldn’t be happier with the way things are going,” Pepper said.

“We’ve had our strike-rate up around that 18 to 20 per cent mark in the last few months.”

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