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El Grado For Badminton

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    Posted: 07 May 2015 at 12:29pm

Team UK looks to Victorian gelding Grado

  • 6 May, 2015
  • |James Tzaferis
El Grado

El Grado, pictured here during the first phase of eventing, dressage, for Natalie Davies. Image: Jenelle Christopher

Retired thoroughbred racehorse El Grado will carry the hopes of a nation when he makes his CCI4* debut in this week’s Badminton Horse Trials in England.

The only problem for Australia is that the Victorian thoroughbred, who raced six times for Hall of Fame trainer Lee Freedman and Mornington horseman John McArdle, will be partnered by talented British rider Nick Gauntlett.

The nine-year-old son of Delago Brom has been a rapid mover through the international eventing ranks following his retirement from the track in 2009 and was sold to UK connections for a significant sum in the latter part of last year, with Badminton and next year’s Rio Olympics among his foreseeable targets.

Initially purchased as a yearling for $40,000 at the Inglis Melbourne Premier Yearling Sale and raced by Slade Bloodstock, El Grado spent time at Flemington (Freedman) and Mornington (McArdle) before being retired into the care of his then-track rider, Rowan Waymouth.

As a track rider and noted educator and pre-trainer for some of Melbourne’s most successful stables, Waymouth knows his way around a thoroughbred and immediately suspected something special about El Grado.

Most young colts that come under Waymouth’s saddle are destined to be gelded. Fresh and exuberant, they test the boundaries of stable life and often receive “the ultimate gear change” to focus their minds on their jobs on the track. But not El Grado.

“I used to ride him in trackwork and I bought him off the owners when they retired him from racing,” Waymouth said.

“The reason I got him was because he was such a lovable, little horse and you could do anything with him, I’d often forget that he was a colt.

“I actually bought him to play around with as a lead pony but he was a bit timid around other horses so we scrapped that plan so we could try him as a dressage horse instead.

“I schooled him (over jumps) as a three-year-old colt and he actually wasn’t that nice of a jumper but after we gelded him we jumped him again and he started jumping really well.”

Waymouth enlisted the aid of another local trainer, Danielle Smith, to continue El Grado’s post-racing education and the pair set about equipping him with the skills to excel in the three disciplines of eventing – dressage, cross country and show jumping.

Although a quick learner with obvious potential as a three-year-old, Waymouth admits he’s surprised that El Grado’s CCI4* debut has come so soon.

“I had Danielle Smith, who’s a trainer now, doing a bit of dressage with him and I played around with him over jumps,” Waymouth said.

“He was a lovely horse and he made huge improvement as you did more with him but I would never have dreamed he’d have made it as far as he has.

“For him to make his Four Star debut at Badminton is huge.”

Like Waymouth, leading Victorian eventer Natalie Davies has an eye for a talented thoroughbred and was impressed when she first laid eyes on El Grado.


A stable full of horses and a modest budget meant that instead of purchasing El Grado from Waymouth for herself, she recommended the gelding to a young pony club rider she was working with at the time.

But Davies couldn’t shake the suspicion that El Grado might be “that one in a million horse” so three years later, with the financial backing of a team of loyal supporters, she bought the then-six-year-old and turned her attention to some of the country’s biggest eventing contests.

“A few years ago I was at the Sydney Three-Day Event and realised the horses I had weren’t good enough for the top level so I put a syndicate of people together to buy Robbie (El Grado) when he was six,” Davies said.

“A year later he won the CCI* at Melbourne Three-Day Event for me.”

That win at Melbourne was followed by more success, including victory in last year’s CCI3* class at the Camperdown Horse Trials, a performance that well and truly placed the trusty thoroughbred on Gauntlett’s radar.


While Davies harbours dreams of representing Australia on the world stage, a substantial offer from UK owners who wanted to export the horse to Gauntlett’s Chipping Sodbury stable proved too enticing.

“I was offered a significant amount of money for him in October last year and it was a really hard decision but I felt that the money was going to help me change my life,” Davies said

“I sold to him Nick Gauntlet who has ridden at Badminton before and is quite a successful rider in the UK and Nick hopes that he might be in contention for the Rio Olympics next year.

“He is rising 10 this year so he’s come a long way in a short amount of time.”

And while it’s unlikely she’ll be able to produce another horse as good as El Grado to earn a spot on the Australian eventing team for next year’s Rio Olympic Games, Davies is employing a proven formula to find her next Off the Track star.

 “What makes a good racehorse isn’t always what make as a good eventer and what was so good about Robbie (El Grado) was that he was really submissive and you could tell him what you wanted him to do for you,” Davies said.

“I’ve subsequently gone and got three or four other Delago Brom horses and he’s stamped them quite a lot, they’re all very similar.

“All my good horses now that I have are thoroughbreds so hopefully I can find another really good one.”

The Badminton Horse Trials begin with the opening day of dressage on Thursday night (AET). Off the Track will provide regular updates on the performance of El Grado as well as leading Australian combination, Chris Burton and former racehorse TS Jamaino.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote acacia alba Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 May 2015 at 10:47pm
There is another Aust TB at Badminton .  TS Jamaino , a 15 year old gelding. One of the world,s leading event horses who won the 2013 International 3 Day Event at Adelaide , ridden by Chris Burton.
He was subsequently purchased and exported to UK for 6 a six figure sum.   He is by Urgent Request .
He was bred at Emirates Park and raced as Hurried Plea, and was originally trained by Russell Cameron.
Griffith and his daughter purchased Hurried Plea for $1500.   After a failure as a racehorse he was sold to Amanda Ross, who was a member of Aust,s Olympic Team in 2000, for $3000.
Jamaino and Burton are part of an Aust contingent at Badminton .

animals before people.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote acacia alba Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 May 2015 at 11:22pm
Jamaino came 19th in a field of 62 in the dressage.Clap
More to follow.
animals before people.
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