Jade’s bid for the Rio Olympics

Posted on Oct 27, 2013 in Grandview News


Delago2Newspaper article that was in The Advertiser on 18th October 2013 on the very talented Jade Kluske. We are very proud at GrandView Sport Horses to have Jade campaigning our black tobiano warmblood Fox in Sox….and wish Jade every success in her bid to represent Australia at the Rio Olympics! I have already volunteered my services as chief groom!!! :-)

Jade Kluske has dreams of representing Australia at the Rio Olympic Games aboard Delago. Picture: Tait Schmaal Source: The Advertiser

THREE-DAY eventer Jade Kluske dreams of representing Australia at the Rio Olympic Games on a dud racehorse that no one wanted.

Jade Kluske dreams of competing at the Olympic Games as a member of Australia’s three-day eventing team – and it will be an even bigger thrill if she can get there on the back of a horse that used to be known as Regal De Lago.

The former racehorse had the kind of wretched racetrack record that would normally earn it a place at the Peterborough abattoir, three hours north of Adelaide. Fortunately, an innate jumping ability gave the thoroughbred a second chance.

Now in the hands of his talented teenage owner, Delago as he is known, has a genuine hope of sunning himself in Rio at the 2016 Olympics.

The partnership faces its next big test on the road to Olympic qualification at Australia’s International 3 Day Event, held in the Adelaide parklands from November 15-17.

When she first sat on his back four years ago, Jade, a member of the renowned horse-training Kluske family based at Murray Bridge, felt an immediate affinity with her mount.

“He was sent to me to be tried out and then sold on as an event horse – just like I’d done with two other ex racehorses,” she says. “But as soon as I started educating him I fell in love with him and decided to buy him for myself. He was a dud as a racehorse, but his movement was exceptional and he showed natural jumping talent.”

Speed – or the distinct lack of it – was the steed’s big issue in his quest to succeed in the sport of kings.

With a blue-blooded pedigree that included star stallions Sir Tristram and Encosta De Lago he was presented as Lot 41 at the Magic Millions yearling sale in Adelaide in 2006. The hammer came down at a modest $25,000 and the gelding entered the stable of future Adelaide Cup-winning trainer Lloyd Kennewell.

Over the following three years he had four trainers.

Regal De Lago was tried as a hurdler, but finished 36 lengths behind the winner on debut at Morphettville. Remarkably, at the very next start, he represented his country in the annual Australia v Ireland Hurdle series. He failed to score a point, or even finish the course. Four days later, at Strathalbyn, on August 26, 2009, he was retired with just a single placing from 17 starts and a meagre $2360 in prizemoney.

Kluske, 20 next month, works in the racing industry, riding trackwork most days for her boyfriend, trainer Michael Hickmott, and knows full well the usual fate of horses with such a mediocre record.

“That (the abattoir) is the reason I try to get as many horses as I can and to find a home for them,” she says. “That’s the sad reality, so Delago is a very lucky boy.”

With parents Kerry and Mark encouraging her, Jade was first placed on the back of a horse at three months and learned to ride a pony unassisted by the age of three.

She began eventing at 13 and continues to enjoy the unique challenges of the sport. “I did a bit of grooming and then I became involved with Megan Jones (silver medallist at the 2008 Beijing Olympics) and that really fired my passion,” she added.

“With three different phases of the sport, (dressage, cross country and show jumping) you have to be spot on in all three disciplines to be competitive and that’s a massive challenge.”

Australian has a proud record in the Olympic Equestrian having won 11 medals, with six gold since the 1956 Melbourne Olympics.

Kluske is keen to join fellow South Australians Gillian Rolton (gold at both Barcelona in 1992 and Atlanta in 1996) and Wendy Schaeffer (gold in 1996) on the very top of the dais in Rio, but says it’s mainly a matter of finding the right horse.

She has “a strong gut feeling” Delago will prove the right horse, but the journey has not been a smooth ride. The nine-year-old’s tendency to rear without warning almost caused a premature end to the relationship. Kluske feared she wasn’t strong enough for the headstrong horse and last year handed him over to good friend and fellow eventer Andrew Cooper to “sort him out”.

When her first top horse, Lakota, was retired this year, unflattering referred to as a “cow pony” because she is particularly small and agile like a typical cattle herder, Delago received a reprieve.

“Andrew had helped him turn the corner and we’ve had a very successful year winning the first Two Star events he entered in March,” Kluske says. “We’ll compete in the Two Star at Adelaide this year and then hopefully the Melbourne Three Star so that we’ll have progressed to the Adelaide Four Star next year.”

Only horses competitive in Four Star-class are considered for international duty.

Kluske has risen rapidly to become a young rider to watch and her talent has been recognised by Grandview Stud, based in the Adelaide Hills, that looks to breed elite eventing horses. She has been chosen as the rider for Grandview’s Fox In Sox, a black tobiano stallion with a promising future.

Megan Jones first met Jade when she started lessons aged 13 and quickly identified her as a future star. “She’d stay with us during her holidays for extra lessons and she was always a terrific talent,” Jones says. “Her first horse Lakota was just amazing, a tiny rodeo pony with an incredible jump.

“This horse (Delago) has been quite naughty, a talent but a real pain. She knows him inside out now and that will take them both a long way.”

Jones says the partnership between horse and rider is imperative in achieving the ultimate success, but finding the right horse is a lottery. “In our game it is a little bit about luck getting the right horse,” she says. “They’ve got to do all these crazy things and be fast as well.”

Jones suffered considerable disappointment at the London Olympics last year, with Kirby Park Allofasudden, nicknamed Floyd, when the horse was found to have a foot abscess the day before the event and didn’t compete. Floyd is another failed racehorse who initially gave Jones a torrid time.

“He was trialled and immediately sacked as a two-year-old and I got him at around three-and-a-half,” she says. “He was a nightmare, a full-on feral. But as soon as I sat on his back I knew he had something special and I was determined to see him come good.”

Jones and Floyd, now 13, will compete at the Four Star event at Australian International 3 Day Event next month, being held in Adelaide for the tenth consecutive year. It is the only Four Star event in the Southern Hemisphere and one of only six across the world with the others held in Kentucky, USA, Badminton and Burghley, UK, Luhmühlen Horse Trials, Germany, and Pau in France.

Australian Event Director, Gillian Rolton, says thoroughbred racehorses transferring to eventing has been the lifeblood of the sport for decades. “We love the thoroughbreds because they’re quick thinkers and quick reactors and they’re fast,” Rolton says.

“For eventing in particular, those attributes are ideal but the horses have got to be sound (without injury) have a good temperament and the ability to be trained.”

Rolton, a director of the International Equestrian Federation, says it takes buckets of patience to retrain a horse that is accustomed to going flat out.

‘They need to be good enough for the dressage phase, which is very specialised, and then for the jumping we’ve found some breeding lines that seem to continually provide very good jumpers so we all look out for them.

“Most of the American breeding lines are very solid and the Sir Tristrams from New Zealand are renowned as good jumpers, if a little temperamental.”

Rolton says some astute judges can pick a future eventer just by looking at them walking around a parade ring but in the main they reach riders after a recommendation from a thoroughbred trainer.

“We’ve had some top class racehorses become eventers and they are usually the stayers because the sprinters can be a bit fizzy,” she says. “Over half the horses who will compete in Adelaide will be ex-racehorses and then there are those thoroughbred horses who were purpose bred to go eventing and were never intended to be raced.”

There is no formal process for a thoroughbred to progress to become a potential eventer but Rolton is working to change the situation.

“In Victoria, they have an ex-racehorse riding club that has clinics and instruction days and is a place where owners can realise their racehorse can have a second career,” Rolton added.

“I’d like to see something happened here in South Australian and I’m looking to talk with Thoroughbred Racing SA about that.”

Nick Bawden works for TRSA as its industry operations manager and he is also a previous owner of Regal De Lago. He remembers his horse was built for comfort not speed.

“I recall his first start for us and he had to be hard ridden from the barriers just to keep up – and this was in a distance race,” Bawden says. “I’d heard from our trainer Kevin Frew that the horse was becoming successful as an eventer, which was a real surprise. He was bred to be a star so I’m pleased he’s found something he’s good at. This is one of the great things about owning a hurdler that they can go on to another career.”

Bawden has no happy memories of the first time Delago represented his country but will be glued to the TV if Delago gets a second chance to “wave the Aussie flag” in the unique cauldron of the Olympic equestrian event. His owner has supreme faith her charge will carry them both to Brazil.

“I’m thinking Delago could well be the right horse to be good enough to go all the way to the Olympics,” Kluske says. “But we’ll only really know when he gets to the Four Star level – and that’s another year away.