The lure of greater riding opportunities was a key factor driving apprentice jockey Kristo Sardelic’s recent move to South Australia.
The 24-year-old former apprentice butcher comes from a non-racing background and had never ridden or handled horses until he started an apprenticeship in his home state of Western Australia.
He’s now been race riding for just over 12 months, having claimed 25 winners and 68 placings from just over 300 rides on WA tracks.
The last three years have been a steep learning curve, but Sardelic said he hadn’t looked back since making the career switch and was eager to move to SA to continue his career development.
“I was working as a butcher but I wasn’t really enjoying that and I thought I was about the right size for a jockey so I sent off a few emails and it kind of went from there,” he said.
“It was always a running joke when I was a butcher, that I was about the right size to be a jockey. I thought I had the right temperament and I love the animal.
“The first time I jumped on a horse I think I was bouncing around all over the place.
“Having only been riding for about three years now there’s been a lot to learn but I feel more relaxed when I’m around horses, it’s almost therapeutic.”
Sardelic has now settled in Goolwa, close to his new master – trainer David Jolly – and has been ticked off by Racing SA stewards to make his SA race riding debut on Saturday at Roxby Downs.
“I’m pretty pumped about the next chapter. In a perfect world I would like to finish my apprenticeship and outride my claim here,” Sardelic said.
“It’s only been a few weeks but David’s been really good to me. We start at 4.30am every morning, we do a mix of beach work or go to Strathalbyn to ride track.
“It’s a beautiful beach, the horses can do their work nicely and it’s good for them.
“Back in WA I was riding on bush tracks and the beach a lot. Here riding more grass gallops is good for me.
“I’m really enjoying it, everyone’s really friendly and accommodating.”
Sardelic first learnt his craft with WA trainers Dan and Ben Pearce but was inspired to come to South Australia by multiple Group 1-winning jockey Dwayne Dunn.
“Initially I based myself up in Carnarvon, then I was offered to go down south to Albany. While I was in Albany, trying to better myself, I got in touch with Dwayne Dunn,” he said.
“My association with Dwayne came about as he is godfather to my partner. I think he has helped me improve a lot.
“I wasn’t getting as many rides on the grass as I would have liked, so he told me to think about going to Adelaide.
“I’m excited to join the Racing SA Apprentice Academy and I’m looking at it (the move) as a big learning experience.
“I’d like to better myself as a rider to be the best I can be. Hopefully I can look back in 12 months’ time and see a massive improvement from where I am now.”
IMAGE: Racing and Wagering WA