Gone Rougue has found friendship with Ed Corstens as well as mentoring young horses on the track.
Health issues ended Gone Rogue’s racing career, but he’s found his place helping future champions get used to the racetrack
When Troy Corstens’ son, Ed, wanted to learn to ride, Corstens knew exactly which horse would suit him. He saddled up five year- old Gone Rogue and Ed took his first tentative ride around the paddocks at the family farm near Benalla.
It was the start of a beautiful friendship. “Ed had not been interested in horses or the stables before last year – he was a 13-year-old riding his bike, playing footy and playing with his mates. I had no intention of pushing him to like horses because working with thoroughbreds is demanding and you have to want to do it,” said Corstens, Head Trainer at Malua Racing at Flemington.
“But last year, during COVID lockdown, we got stuck at the farm and it turned out to be fantastic. We had a terrific young kid, Jayden, come to the farm at weekends to work in the stables and he and Ed became friends. I think Ed thought that if Jayden could work in the stables, maybe he could do it too and then he said he wanted to learn to ride. I was a bit surprised but I knew that Rougie was the perfect horse for Ed because they are two peas in a pod. Rougie looks after Ed so well and they have a wonderful friendship.”
Corstens bought Gone Rogue as a yearling at the Magic Millions and began preparing him for a racing career. But a series of health setbacks eventually put paid to his racing future last year.
“He had a lot of ability. He was a $100,000 horse but I felt he had the potential to be a $1 million dollar candidate. But he raced a couple of times, had a few issues and was going well again until early last year when his form suddenly dropped off,” said Corstens.
Gone Rogue was diagnosed with a case of roaring, a throat condition that affects the way the larynx works during high-intensity exercise. Surgery can fix the condition but it is complex. Horses with this condition can be ridden at slow paces without issue but it can restrict their airflow when under race pressure.
“Surgery wasn’t successful and so there was no chance of Rougie ever being a racehorse. Financially it was devastating because I wanted him to be successful on the track but he is a real character and he has so many more attributes than just being a racehorse,” said Corstens.
Gone Rogue has become a mentor to the young horses at Malua Racing’s Flemington stables. Every morning he is out on the track with the new horses, showing them the ropes and helping to keep them in line. Three mornings a week before going to school, Ed saddles up Gone Rogue and takes him out on the track.
"Any afternoon when Ed has free time after school, he comes to see Rougie and plays with him. They’ve developed a bond that’s fantastic to see."
“We had to educate Rougie to become an educator himself but he took to it very quickly. We basically feed our racehorses rocket fuel that’s full of protein and energy, which is why thoroughbreds are so highly strung. But when they finish racing, we get them onto a paddock feed or a cold feed and have to get them used to not racing,” explained Corstens.
“We still take Rougie out the barriers because he teaches the young horses how to jump out, but he knows he is not there to race and that he is there to enjoy himself and to educate the young horses. If you get two or three young horses jumping around together on their own, they stir each other up. Rougie will stand in the middle and look at them as if to say, ‘come on boys and girls, let’s get this right.’ He has a calming influence.
“They follow him out on the track, bump up against him and he teaches them how to canter and run in one line. Young horses can go all over the place – they see a pole or shadow and get scared and jump around. But Rougie holds his space and teaches them to go straight.”
For Corstens, one of the most rewarding gifts that Gone Rogue has brought to Malua Racing is the bond with Ed. Initially hesitant for Ed to be on track at 4.30am on school days, Corstens and wife Lauren have been thrilled to see their son take to the track on the hardworking horse. Troy is hoping that daughters, Willa, 11, and Sadie, 9, will also learn to ride on Gone Rogue one day.
“Riding Rougie is teaching Ed a work ethic and he’s learning to manage his time. We said he’d have to stop if it started affecting his schooling but Ed’s grades have improved since he began riding,” said Corstens.