A supportive text message from a high-profile Sydney jockey and some wise fatherly advice have helped 16-year-old apprentice jockey Jacob Opperman move on from a challenging first day at work.
Jacob hit the headlines on Wednesday when his dream debut ride at Mount Gambier turned sour, through no fault of his own. Jacob thought he’d ridden Miss Gatsby to victory, only to learn afterwards the race was false start, due to a barrier incident. Footage of Jacob emphatically ‘winning’ the one-horse race was played on news services, putting an unusually bright glare on a novice rider.
However, Jacob has coped remarkably well and is already focused on his second race meeting, at Gawler today.
“Yeah, it was disappointing, but things happen,” said Jacob.
“(After passing the winning post) I had a big grin on my face, but when I pulled up I didn’t know what had happened until I went back to the gates. The clerk of the course then told me there was a false start.
“At least I definitely won’t forget it.”
After all the drama surrounding the race died down, Jacob said he received plenty of encouragement, while his father Jamie – an experienced Mount Gambier-based trainer – said support came from unexpected quarters, most notably Sydney jockey Josh Parr.
“We didn’t even know Josh Parr,” Jamie said.
“But what he wrote really made Jacob’s day and we actually had a lot of support from leading trainers and jockeys.”
In his unsolicited text, Parr said he felt for Jacob, knowing the “emotional build-up” to a first career ride, but also said the incident was at “the very beginning of a long journey”.
“Keep your head up and move on with positive thoughts,” Parr said.
Jamie said his son had coped relatively well with the situation, which might have a silver lining.
“He has got some good publicity out of it – he made the Channel Seven news,” Jamie laughed.
“He was actually in the local newspaper down here the day before, having his first ride.”
Jamie also said he was “very proud” of how Jacob bounced back, riding a runner-up in the last race of the day.
“He handled it pretty well under the circumstances, I was probably more upset for him than anything else,” he said.
“But it’s just one of those things and that’s what I told him beforehand: You’ve got to go to the races and hope for the best, but fear for the worst.
“He was upset and (trainer) Jenny Gow-Whyte did a lot of work to get that horse to there. I feel the horse would’ve won.
“Now Jacob’s just looking forward to Sunday and even trying to get rides at Balaklava on Wednesday.”
Jacob echoed his father’s sentiments and said despite the drama, he enjoyed “getting out amongst them” at Mount Gambier.
“I’m feeling fine moving into Gawler,” he said.
Jacob has two rides at Gawler today, including Alaskan Jade, who is one of the favourites in race five.