Da­nis kick­ing goals in NZ

The Southland Times - - RACING - NZ Rac­ing Desk

Dar­ren Da­nis is start­ing to hit his straps in the New Zealand ap­pren­tice jockey ranks af­ter a frus­trat­ing in­tro­duc­tion to his rid­ing ca­reer for the Malaysian jockey.

The son of for­mer jockey Luke Da­nis, he cred­its his fa­ther for his in­tro­duc­tion to rac­ing, but said he was a late bloomer to the sport de­spite his fa­ther’s pro­fes­sion.

‘‘I never re­ally got a chance to watch Dad ride at the races when I was a child,’’ Da­nis said. ‘‘Back then they didn’t al­low any­one un­der the age of eigh­teen to go to the races. How­ever, they man­aged to sneak me into a few car­ni­val days when I was 17, but apart from that I didn’t get to see him ride.

‘‘Dad now trains in Malaysia and cur­rently has four­teen horses in work. The first time I jumped on a horse I was hooked. I was 17 and it was just af­ter my fi­nal ex­ams at high school.

‘‘Dad asked me what I was do­ing in the hol­i­days, I wasn’t too sure so he said to go and help him at the sta­bles. So I started to help him out and found out what be­ing in the in­dus­try was ac­tu­ally like.’’

De­spite his mother’s hopes of Da­nis go­ing to Univer­sity, he de­cided to fol­low his fa­ther into the rac­ing game af­ter en­joy­ing his time at the sta­bles.

‘‘Mum wanted me to study be­cause she knew what it was like be­ing a jockey af­ter mar­ry­ing Dad,’’ he said. ‘‘I started with Dad in Malaysia and af­ter I got the hang of rid­ing Dad sent me to Sin­ga­pore and I worked for Brian Dean.’’ Dean, a for­mer jockey him­self passed his knowl­edge onto Da­nis, build­ing on the foun­da­tions cre­ated by Da­nis’ fa­ther. He was also a key fig­ure in his de­ci­sion to seek fur­ther ex­pe­ri­ence over­seas.

‘‘He taught me a lot of things be­cause I wasn’t re­ally that ex­pe­ri­enced when I was in Sin­ga­pore,’’ he said.

‘‘He told me I had a lot of po­ten­tial, but that I needed to broaden my knowl­edge of horses be­cause I started a bit later than most peo­ple in the in­dus­try.’’

His first thoughts were to move to Aus­tralia, how­ever, af­ter speak­ing with Sin­ga­pore-based Kiwi trainer Lau­rie Laxon he de­cided to move to New Zealand in­stead.

‘‘While I was wait­ing for my Aus­tralian visa I was just ask­ing around about New Zealand and Lau­rie Laxon said Ken Kelso was look­ing for a worker or an ap­pren­tice.’’

Da­nis moved to New Zealand in Oc­to­ber 2014 to join Kelso and spent ten months in his barn be­fore mov­ing to work for Wayne and Vanessa Hil­lis.

PHOTO: STUFF

Dar­ren Da­nis aboard win­ner Roc de Bank at Te Rapa in June.

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