Now for Danis to make his mark in Singapore

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  • May 10, 2024
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Now for Danis to make his mark in Singapore

Singapore Turf Club

Jockey Darren Danis will make his Singapore debut this Sunday, eight days later than expected, but he was still excited at the thought of riding at home after spending the last nine years in New Zealand.

Licensed to ride in Singapore till October this year, the Singaporean son of former trainer and ex-MRA champion apprentice jockey Luke Danis arrived in Singapore on 18 April and was looking forward to resuming trackwork and making his debut last week since he last rode as a track rider here in 2014.

Unfortunately, a small hiccup in the week involving his medical clearance disrupted his plan to ride on 4 May, but soon after the green light was given for him to ride, Danis has managed to secure four rides on Sunday’s meeting.

“I had my medical (check-up) done in New Zealand and thought it would be approved by last Monday when I was told to pay the jockey’s licence fees, but then they told me I had to do it in Singapore and get clearance from an MRA-appointed clinic,” said the 31-year-old jockey.

“So I submitted the (medical) report on Tuesday morning, but it was not in time for last Saturday’s meeting (the deadline for jockeys’ declaration was on last Tuesday morning).

“It was approved last Friday, so I started riding trackwork yesterday. I approached the trainers myself, but I knew (trainer) Donna (Logan) back in New Zealand. I rode a couple of winners for her.

“I have four rides this weekend, Red Maned for Donna, Iron Ruler for (trainer) Mahadi (Taib), Who’s The Man for (trainer) Richard Lim and Show All Sixty-One for (trainer) James Peters. I rode three of them in trackwork yesterday and I’ll probably ride Red Maned tomorrow morning.”

Although Danis first sat on horses at his father’s former stables in Malaysia when he was 17, he only officially joined the racing industry after coming to Singapore to work as a track rider under former Kranji trainer Brian Dean. Yet, instead of becoming a “homegrown” apprentice jockey in Singapore, he opted to get his licence and further hone his skills in Matamata in the North Island of New Zealand.

He was indentured to trainers Ken and Bev Kelso in October 2015 for 10 months before moving over to trainers Wayne and Vanessa Hillis for the rest of his apprenticeship until he graduated to senior’s rank in 2021.

“I didn’t know much back then (in 2014) when I was a track rider with Brian. I did about 12 or 14 trials but in the end decided not to apply for an apprentice jockey’s licence here,” said Danis, who has over 100 wins and claimed his only Group victory to-date in the Group 3 Barneswood Farm Stakes with Star Of Justice for former four-time Singapore champion trainer Mark Walker last October.

“I talked with dad and Brian and we thought I wasn’t good enough. We decided I should go further to learn more about horses. I was also young and wanted to see how racing was like overseas.

“People overseas have ridden horses since they’re very young. For me, I started late and all I knew was hop onto a horse but didn’t really know what I was doing.

“We applied for both Australia and New Zealand, but the visa to New Zealand came faster.

“I spent 10 months with Ken and I learned a lot from him from a horse training perspective, but he wasn’t really looking for an apprentice jockey.

“Then I moved to (husband and wife) Wayne and Vanessa, who had a small team but they were very nice during the time I was with them most of my apprenticeship.

“Wayne was an ex-jump jockey and his family members were also jump and flat jockeys so I could learn more about riding from him.

“After I became a senior jockey three years ago, I spent another three months with them before relocating to Cambridge, which was half an hour away from Matamata and also a bigger town, so I thought I could try over there and see what happens.

“It started off a bit slow because I can no longer claim and I was also new, but I still worked hard and tried my best.

“I can’t really ride 10 years ago, so from where I’ve been and come to now; from working on the grounds and to riding horses, I have learned a lot.

“It’s good to see that I did well, although not as good as I wanted to. I thought 100 winners is still not a lot for what I could have done, but I also injured myself a couple of times.

“An injury to my back took about a year to recover. I also tore my cartilage and my left knee in a race fall two years ago and had to be sidelined for at least eight months. After that, you have to go back and get things started again.”

Ironically, returning to home soil after nine years also meant starting from scratch again for Danis, who will have to build connections and work hard to establish himself in the competitive jockeys’ rank at Kranji, albeit he has only barely five months to do so.

Time is not on his side before the curtain comes down on racing at Kranji after 5 October but given nine years of exposure to racing and the experience gained in New Zealand, Danis has matured and knew that it was now or never to test his skills at Kranji.

“I always wanted to come back for a short stint but didn’t think it would be so soon,” said Danis, who now stays with his family and Kiwi amateur jockey girlfriend Hayley Hassman in Bukit Panjang.

“It was partly due to the (Singapore Turf Club’s) closure, but it was mostly to be with my family. My family and close friends haven’t really seen me because I rode overseas. It’s quite nice to see everybody now.

“My elder brother can’t make it, but my dad, mum, younger sister and Hayley will be here at the races this Sunday. Hayley was actually booked to fly back on the 11th (May) but has pushed her flight later to 19th after the (Group 1) Kranji Mile (meeting) so she can watch me ride.

“My main goal is to win a race, and of course, a (Group race) trophy would be nice too.

“I know some riders from Macau (jockeys Ruan Maia, Luis Corrales and Charles Perkins) are here too but I don’t mind the challenge. It’s still quite relaxing here compared to New Zealand, sort of like a working holiday for me.

“The new season in New Zealand starts in August. I’ll see how things go and decide on my next stint. I hope to travel and ride and learn more as I go.”


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