Grace Radke (9) on Montego Showgirl won Reserve Champion in the Juvenile Rider under 12 years at the Ekka and is preparing to head to Sydney to compete in the grand national competition this month.
Grace Radke (9) on Montego Showgirl won Reserve Champion in the Juvenile Rider under 12 years at the Ekka and is preparing to head to Sydney to compete in the grand national competition this month. Shirley Wanstall

Radke ready to compete

Nine-year-old Grace Radke might be little, but she's about to do something very, very big.  

The youngest of three sisters in a family of riders living in the Western Downs, Grace took out the Reserve Champion Juvenile Rider under 12 years at the Ekka last year.   

What she didn't realise was the win gave her the qualifications to compete at the 2019 Hufglocken Grand National Saddle Horse and Rider Championships in Sydney.   

Her mum, Fiona Radke, said it was something they'd never known about.   

"We just do ag shows and go to Brisbane as a highlight, and when she qualified lots of other competitors and families were quite excited for us and then that put it on our radar," Mrs Radke said.  

The qualifications put young Grace in an elite group of young riders in a competition complete with four international judges.   "We think it's an opportunity we can't let her pass up," Mrs Radke said.   

While Mr Radke and their other two daughters will stay at home, Mrs Radke and Grace will take the trip down to Sydney late next week, ready for Grace's run on Tuesday, March 26.   

The pair won't be the only ones on the trip, bringing a very special, four-legged companion.   

Grace's trusty steed for the event is Montego Showgirl, who Mrs Radke describe as past her prime but the "perfect riding class pony".  

Mrs Radke's aunt Gloria bred Montego Showgirl, and the pony first was mount to her daughters, grandson and other children, before the Radkes.   

As for Grace, Mrs Radke said her daughter was not only excited, but fully aware of the enormity of the event.  

"She gets how lucky she is, that this is cool and our kids know - they're bush kids - they know that things cost money, and this is a big spin in our life to go and do this for a week, but there's no way you wouldn't do it," she said.   

As she spoke about her daughter, Mrs Radke's eyes were practically sparkling with pride and excitement.   

"Why wouldn't you be?" she said.   "People drive all over the country trying to qualify for grand national, Gracie's just done that and she shrugs her shoulders and says 'oh OK'.  

"There's competitors that do this year in and year out and it'll be elite riders down there, and to think that Gracie's going to be in amongst them is really special."  

Nonetheless Mrs Radke was quick to put the event in perspective amid ongoing drought conditions.    But they still wouldn't miss it for the world.   

Mrs Radke said a friend living outside of Sydney had warned her not to pass up the event, after regretting not taking her own children when they qualified.   

"So we'll be the crazy people with one pony and one child for one class going all the way to Sydney in one truck, but there's no way we wouldn't do it," Mrs Radke said.   

For those eager to watch, the event will be streamed at australianequinenetwork. com.au/show-horse-council.