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FAR away from the hustle and bustle of Royal Randwick’s final metropolitan meeting of the season yesterday, another budding star successfully relaunched her career.

As young guns Zac Lloyd and Dylan Gibbons duelled for Sydney apprentice premiership honours, some 420km north Anna Roper made a low-key return and rode a winner at the country TAB meeting at Kempsey.

The talented young jockey had not ridden in eight months since seriously injuring her right knee when dislodged from a horse on the way back to the enclosure after the second race at Muswellbrook on November 25 last year.

Roper, who will turn 21 in September, had four mounts on the six-race Kempsey program and, after a second and two fourths, scored on Wyong trainer Kristen Buchanan’s Penfold Park ($6.50) in the Class 1/Maiden Plate (1900m).

“We purposely didn’t tell too many Anna was resuming at the Kempsey meeting as I wanted her to kick off under no pressure at all,” Roper’s delighted master, fellow Wyong trainer Damien Lane, said today.

“But she still finished up with four rides, and rode them all well.

“Anna has hit the ground running, and said she felt great after her first day back after being away from the races for such a long time.”

Roper set the racing world alight when she was successful at her first ride, on Alpha Go ($6), for former Gosford trainer Tony Newing at Gundagai in April last year.

She rode a further 14 winners in the last few months of the 2021-22 season, and the winners kept flowing in the first four months of this current racing year.

Roper had tallied another 41 and was set for a highly successful season when sidelined, and subsequently requiring surgery to repair a medial cruciate ligament, as a result of the Muswellbrook mishap.

Such was her dramatic success in such a brief period that not only was she the State’s leading apprentice at the time of that accident, but was also in the Top 5 overall riding ranks in NSW.

In spite of carrying on yesterday where she left off eight months ago, there is absolutely no rush to fast track her into regular riding in town.

“There will no doubt be limited opportunities in town, but our focus is for Anna to win the provincial apprentices’ premiership in the new season,” Lane said.

“She can still claim 3kg at provincial meetings.”

Roper had only a handful of city rides earlier in the season, and was placed twice from three mounts at a midweek Warwick Farm meeting only two days before being injured at Muswellbrook.

She was narrowly beaten on Lane’s $61 bolter Denetta that day at Warwick Farm.

Roper will ride next at Taree on Tuesday where she has three mounts; Nomoretawq and Trust Me for Wyong’s Brett Partelle, and A Tender Lady for Gosford’s Greg McFarlane.

Lane had been hoping to hold Roper back for a while from returning to provincial racing – but she will be in action at her home track on Thursday.

“Anna already has three definite bookings for local trainers Rod Bailey, Kristen Buchanan and Amanda Davis, and perhaps another for myself,” he said.

“Trainers have seen her riding work, and it’s hard to turn them down when they want to book her for rides.”

However, Roper will bypass the Kembla Grange fixture on Saturday, and again is heading to the country.

“Anna already has bookings at the TAB meeting at Gilgandra,” Lane said.

Meanwhile, Lane, who won four races at the recent Grafton July carnival, including the Grafton Guineas Prelude (Deep Opinions), Mother’s Gift (Princess Amira) and Maclean Cup (Too Good To Be Tru), is giving the former a break.

“I was really happy with Deep Opinions’ sixth in the Grafton Guineas after winning the Prelude 10 days earlier,” he said.

“Nothing went right for her that day, and she still finished the race off well.

“Deep Opinions went straight to the paddock after the Guineas, and we’ll look to get her ready for The Four Pillars (1500m) at Rosehill Gardens on November 4.”

One of the new races on the Sydney calendar, The Four Pillars carries a $500,000 purse and is run as a Midway Benchmark 68 Handicap on the $10m Golden Eagle program.

*Story John Curtis, July 30, 2023 - Pics Trackside Photography*

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