Jungle Edge’s status as arguably Australian racing’s number one cult horse – with his own Twitter account and thousands of fans across the nation – caught Morphettville trainer Leah Conlon off guard.
The nine-year-old gelding and champion ‘mudder’ has been in Leah’s expert care for the past two weeks, on loan from Mick Bell, who is stuck in Victoria due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.
Tomorrow, at start number 80, Jungle Edge will attempt to claim his first Group 1 in the Furphy Goodwood, a fortnight after an emphatic win – on a rain-affected track – in the Group 3 DC McKay Stakes at Morphettville.
“I knew of the horse before he got here, but I had no idea how much of a legend he was,” says Leah.
“Then I came to the track on the Friday morning after he arrived and a couple of people were tying up near me. One of them said, ‘Oh my god, is that Jungle Edge? Can I get a photo?’.
“I didn’t expect that reaction, but when I saw him win like that the next day, I got pretty excited too. My son actually strapped him, which he was thrilled about.”
After his scintillating DC McKay Stakes win, Jungle Edge has now won in four states and his popularity continues to grow in the twilight of his career.
Mick describes Jungle Edge as “a real people’s horse”.
“I’m hoping when he finishes that I can get him into Living Legends – but let’s hope it’s not for a while yet,” he says.
“He’s rising 10, but he’s a bit of an evergreen. A good campaign in Adelaide will just add to the legend and I couldn’t be happier with the TLC Leah’s been giving him over there.”
Leah says Jungle Edge has fitted in “perfectly” to her small stable.
“He came over with his own bag of carrots and straight away I thought ‘He’s going to do well here’, because my horses are a bit quirky and he’s exactly the same,” she says.
“He loves a bit of extra attention and a bit of a cuddle, and he’s good fun to have around. I don’t think I’ll give him back.”
This week Mick posted a Twitter video of himself playing guitar and singing a song dedicated to Jungle Ruler – and naturally Leah wanted the horse to know his regular trainer still cared.
“When Mick put that song up on Twitter we played it to Jungle Edge – then we put that up on Twitter as well,” she said.
“It was pretty cool, it got plenty of hits.
“I wouldn’t know Mick from a bar of soap, we’ve only spoken on the phone. But he’s talked my ear off a few times, which is good because I don’t mind a chat either.
“If Jungle Edge happened to win (the Goodwood), I reckon I’d never get Mick off the phone.”
Mick, Leah and race rider Georgina Cartwright – who landed her first city winner on Jungle Edge back in 2017 and helped organise the horse’s SA lodgings – have been praying for rain in recent days, hoping to play to the horse’s strengths.
While Mick concedes for Jungle Edge it’s a case of “the wetter the better”, he says all the horse needs to perform well is some cushion in the ground.
“If the track’s firm he doesn’t go any good, but even if it’s ‘four’ with a bit of give in it, he’s run some terrific races,” he said.
“If it was a ‘five’ I’d be rapt and he’d be hard to beat.”