Jockey Jade Darose and Jungle Edge

Walking a new path

He was the popular mudlark sprint star that struck a chord with the racing public and helped his trainer Mick Bell through some of his most difficult times. Now, Jungle Edge has retired and is on a new path helping others, finding a new home at Equine Pathways Australia, which aims to help those with a disability engage in equine sports and activities.

Jockey Jade Darose struggles to recall exactly what trainer Mick Bell said to her after she rode racing stalwart, Jungle Edge, to victory in the Listed WJ Adams Stakes (1000m) on 1 February 2020. All she does remember is that emotions were running high when she passed the finishing post.

It was Darose’s first stakes success in a 20-year career, and it was also her first race on Jungle Edge.

Hundreds of kilometres away at his home in Lakes Entrance, Ian Dunkley was watching the race on TV with his wife. The managing owner of Jungle Edge hadn’t been able to attend Caulfield because he’d been part of a working bee clearing up after devastating bushfires swept through the area.

As the boss of Buchan and Gelantipy Racing Club, Dunkley had been rallying the community to carry out urgent repairs to the fire-damaged track post the January 2020 fires, so that the annual Buchan Cup race day could go ahead in two weeks’ time.

For Mick Bell, too, Jungle Edge’s Caulfield victory was bittersweet. It coincided with the third anniversary of the death of his beloved wife, Bev, to breast cancer. Only the night before the race Bell had spent the evening with their three sons and Bev’s mum, reflecting on how they’d managed to navigate their loss.

“I shed a tear when Jungle Edge won. I was more emotional than I usually am,” said Bell.

Owned by Michelle and Chris Strickland, Ian Dunkley and a number of other investors, Bell believed the horse was one of Australia’s best wet trackers, which is why he decided to race him on that wet Saturday in February.

"I’m realistic that I'm most likely not going to get something as good as him again."

Jungle Edge’s courageous performance and never-say-die personality won him a legion of fans when racing. He had his share of setbacks, but resilience was Edge’s middle name and his win came just at the right time for his supporters.

“I was ecstatic and, in my mind, it was his greatest win. I watched the race on the big screen and was very emotional,” said Dunkley.

“People like horses that lead and fight on. He puts a smile on many faces and this win came at a challenging time for a fair few people.

The win also put a smile on the face of seasoned jockey and trainer Jade Darose. As Jungle Edge’s regular trackwork rider she had a close connection to the horse and decades of experience in the saddle. Jade began her jockey’s apprenticeship at 14 and became the first dual licence holder to win at Flemington when Parwan Prince took honours in July 2019.

After years of riding Jungle Edge in trackwork and trials, she was excited to get a chance to ride him in a race.

“It was a good race and the right conditions fell into place. He powered away from the crowd and suddenly I realised we might get this one. There were a lot of very happy and very emotional people cheering him on that day. It’s a race I’ll never forget.”

It seems that Jungle Edge will continue to provide happiness post-racing, with his role at Equine Pathways Australia the perfect fit for the rising 11-year-old. Retiring sound after 89 races, of which he won 18, collecting more than $1.7 million in prizemoney, Bell is pleased to see his ‘best mate’ go to a good home. “The beauty of being a horse trainer is there is always next week, but I’m realistic that I'm most likely not going to get something as good as him again,” he said.