Danis, Khalid earn industry kudos in New Zealand

Singapore racing took centrestage in New Zealand last Monday after two of its apprentice jockeys were recognised for their emerging talent.

Darren Danis and Khalid Hairi Marzuki were two of the recipients at the annual Milan Park Waikato Apprentice Jockeys Awards. Danis, who is currently sidelined through injury, won the Most Improved Apprentice award while Khalid, who is also not riding at the moment, but through suspension, was given the Most Promising 1st Year Apprentice.

Both young men were on hand at the ceremony to receive their prizes before an array of distinguished guests from the New Zealand racing industry, mainly from the Waikato area.

Even though Danis is still not 100% over the serious back injury he sustained in a race fall at Washdyke on July 30, he would not have missed the occasion for anything in the world. Based in Matamata with trainers Wayne and Vanessa Hillis, Danis had 10 winners under his belt before the unfortunate fall.

“I’m out for the rest of the year. After my surgery to my fractured T3 and T4 vertebrae, doctors told me I had to wait at least till next January to have a better idea if I can resume my riding career,” said the 25-year-old son of jockey-turned-trainer Luke Danis.

“I’m doing physiotherapy regularly. It’s still really sore but I’m able to walk quite okay, but I can’t lie on the floor or any hard surface.

“I miss riding and I still watch the races and study form, just to keep in touch. I am really honoured with that award; it motivates me even more to make my comeback.”

Based in Cambridge where he is indentured to Kranji trainer Bruce Marsh’s son Stephen since August 2016, Khalid, whose riding name is Hairi there, was just as elated with the accolade.

A winner of nine races from 80 rides last season, the 30-year-old son of former jockey Marzuki Sani, has gone on to pad up his overall score with five more wins in the new season and currently sits in a respectable 29th position on the overall standings (both senior and apprentice).

“I’m really excited with the Most Promising 1st Year Apprentice Award. It wasn’t easy when I started, so it’s really satisfying to win this,” said Khalid whose last win came aboard Armaguard at Terapa on September 20.

“I only started to get going in May this year. The competition is tough, not only among apprentices, who are mostly girls like Amber Sims or Jasmine Fawcett, but also against the senior jockeys.

“My master helps me, but at the end of the day, I’m the one who has to call trainers to chase for rides.

“Overall it’s been a great experience as we race three to four times a week here and I get more opportunities, but I do feel homesick.

“I would of course love to come back and ride in Singapore after my stint here.”

After Khalid made his riding debut at Kranji last year, he went on to win only one race aboard Silver Wind for trainer Kuah Cheng Tee on May 8, 2016.