Opie cooks up century of wins

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  • April 18, 2024
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Joshua Smith, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk

After spending more than two decades travelling the world as a chef, Gavin Opie returned to New Zealand 14 years ago to pursue his initial love of horses, and now he has joined the 100-win club as a trainer.

He brought up the milestone at Arawa Park on Wednesday when Opaea Joe got his nose in front on the line to take out the Lance Lawson 1230.

“We have had a lot of seconds, so to get that off the back now is great,” Opie said.

“It was a great ride by Billy (Jacobson). He was the only one who had rung up for the ride, so he benefitted.

“He (Opaea Joe) had a couple of below par performances when he went up to rating 75 grade. I threw him in the paddock on some fresh grass and then brought him back and got him to his favourite place, Rotorua, and he got the job done.”

A son of trainer Keith Opie, horses were always a passion for Gavin, however, when his aspirations of becoming a jockey were dashed, he elected to follow a different vocation, which led to a memorable journey around the globe.

“I wanted to be a jockey at one stage, but Dad said that I was going to be too big to do that,” Opie said. “I had to earn some pocket money, so I started to help a chef out at the local pub and one thing led to another.

“I went away and was a chef overseas for 20 years. I was in England, Melbourne and Miami. I am glad that I did it and I have a lot of good memories.

“I had a good time at Stella restaurant in Melbourne and my last three years (as a chef) I worked privately for a guy on his yacht chasing the sun (based out of Miami). That was a brilliant experience.

“My wife and kids wanted to live in New Zealand where it was a bit more relaxed, so we came back here and I went back into the horses with Dad.”

Opie tasted plenty of success with his father, highlighted by the deeds of Indikator, who won 18 races, including four Gr.3 Rotorua Cups and two Listed Kiwifruit Cups.

After a decade in partnership, Opie junior took over the reins in a solo capacity in 2020, and he has loved the challenge.

“Dad and I had a lot of success together and now on my own it is working out quite well,” he said.

“I love training, I couldn’t think of anything better to do.”

Opie is now hoping to quickly add to his win tally later in the week at Matamata, where he believes last start runner-ups Deebee Bellfer and You Know are strong chances of going one better in the RSA Red Poppy Raceday 26th April (2000m) and Challenge Matamata 2000 respectively.

“Deebee Bellfer should be pretty hard to beat, and You Know has been dealt a few bad draws and just lost the bob at Ellerslie last time,” he said.


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