The best things about being a jockey.
Every jockey’s first winner is special to them, but 16-year-old Jacob Opperman’s breakthrough success had a particularly homely feel.
Back on May 3, Jacob guided L’amarybelle to victory at Bordertown, completing a nice little ‘circle of life’ moment.
“It was for a trainer I know and some of the owners in that horse used to look after me at the races when I was a little kid,” he says.
“So it was really good to ride that winner for them.”
Mount Gambier-based Jacob gives a slightly surprising answer when asked to consider his favourite part about being a jockey.
Two months into his race-riding career, Jacob has already landed six winners, while his first-ever ride attracted plenty of media attention, after a false start robbed the 16-year-old of a dream debut on his home track.
Instead, Jacob’s “best thing” is rooted in somewhat deeper ties, involving his trainer father, Jamie.
“Probably riding my favourite horse for Dad, Rohlon Drunk,” Jacob says.
“I picked him out of the Magic Millions sale in Adelaide and I’ve done everything on him with his work since he was broken in.
“So, it was good to get the ride on him at Bordertown and at Murray Bridge.”
Jamie finished third on Rohlon Drunk at Bordertown and sixth at Murray Bridge, but the four-year-old gelding clearly holds a special place in his heart.
“I had him in the book at the sales, and Dad didn’t,” Jacob explains with some pride, given Rohlon Drunk has since banked five wins and over $72,000 in prizemoney.
Running a close second behind his involvement with Rohlon Drunk in the “best thing” stakes is the feeling of riding a winner.
“Yeah, it’s pretty exciting,” he says.
“When you’re in a photo finish and you don’t know who’s won, then you find out it’s you, it’s a pretty good feeling – for the trainer and the connections as well.”
Jacob, who still attends Grant High School in Mount Gambier, has been around horses his entire life and is adamant the racing industry can be an attractive option for young people.
“A lot of young people start in the industry,” he said.
“If you love horses it’s a great environment, whether it’s as a stable hand, track rider, a jockey, or whatever.
“At school I’ve got a couple of teachers who watch some of my rides and they (comment) on how I went. They’ve said congratulations to me at school.”