Pepper’s hopes draw bad barriers

Luke Pepper isn’t predicting another Canterbury quinella after cruel barrier draws, although he remains hopeful Erins Zar and Volante can experience a change of fortune once they jump.

The Canberra trainer cursed the “visitors’ draw” for his three runners on Wednesday with last-start winner Viceroy also copping a wide slot when he steps up in grade.

Viceroy and Erins Zar produced a career milestone for Pepper when they finished one-two on July 12, and he admitted it would be tough for Erins Zar ($12) and Volante ($17) to emulate that feat in the Benchmark 67 Handicap (1100m).

Pepper takes heart from the bookings of Brenton Avdulla and Hugh Bowman for Volante and Viceroy respectively, as they jostle for the Sydney jockey’s premiership.

“I’ve got the best of both worlds there,” Pepper said.

Pepper said Avdulla would need to be on his game from barrier 13 as Volante seeks a fourth career win before heading to stud at the end of this preparation.

“She’s probably the unluckiest horse in New South Wales lately. She is one of those mares that seems to run into trouble in the running,” Pepper said.

“She was knocked about at Canterbury. In Canberra the other day she was mucking around and missed the start by a couple of lengths.”

Pepper is rapt with Erins Zar as the gelding approaches the 11th start of a preparation in which he has only finished out of the top three on three occasions.

“He’s in a purple patch of form. He’s gone from winning races at Wagga to just getting beaten in town,” he said.

“He’ll drift back from 13 and hopefully be ridden for a bit of luck (by Simon Miller).”

Viceroy tackles a Benchmark 72 over 1250m from the outside alley.

“It’s a nightmare gate again,” Pepper said. “But if he gets any type of run I’m happy he’ll be right in the finish.”

Bowman heads into the penultimate metropolitan meeting of the season on 78 winners with Avdulla on 77-1/2.

While Bowman has a full book of seven rides, Avdulla has six after Gary Portelli scratched Vincero.

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