New Zealand-based Singapore apprentice jockey Darren Danis will make his riding comeback this Wednesday, nearly eight months after suffering a serious back injury in a race fall.
The son of jockey-turned-trainer Luke Danis underwent surgery to his T4 and T5 vertebrae after they were fractured in the racing incident where his horse Advent clipped heels and fell heavily close home at Washdyke on July 30, 2017.
Previously indentured to ex-Kranji trainer Brian Dean for a short while, Danis moved to New Zealand in 2014 before he got the chance to ride at Kranji, basing himself in Matamata on the North Island where he was the winner of 10 races from 169 rides before his injury.
Happy to be back: Darren Danis rides Roll The Gold during morning trackwork at Matamata last week
(photo courtesy of Michael Rist).
Danis had just been offered more opportunities down South when that fall brought the new venture to an abrupt end.
The road to recovery has been long, with Danis also facing an uncertain future regarding his career in the saddle. But after months of physiotherapy and regular gym and fitness exercises, the 25-year-old rider was finally given that all-important piece of paper he had been praying for on February 20.
“It’s been tough, and I was quite down as I wasn’t sure if I would be allowed to ride again even if my recovery was coming along well,” said Danis.
“I was going to the gym four times a week. If I was tired or sore, I would walk or swim; walking has been really good for me.
“My doctors actually told me they would usually not recommend people to ride again after such an injury, but they also know they cannot stop us as it’s our passion and livelihood.
“But I finally received my medical clearance on February 20, and the next day I was back riding trackwork for the first time.”
Riding mainly for his masters Wayne and Vanessa Hillis, Danis was over the moon when he was booked for his first race ride since the fall by trainer Ian George aboard Miss Sequoia in the last race at Matamata, the NZ$12,000 NZB Insurance Pearl Series race, a Maiden race for fillies and mares over 1400m, this Wednesday.
“Ian has been good to me. He often puts me on his horses, and I won on one of his good horses, Deluxe Edition once,” said Danis who won the Most Improved Apprentice award for the Waikato area in October.
“My fitness level is actually okay as I’ve been working on it a lot. I didn’t feel sore after I rode trackwork, even if the part where the plate is can feel a bit stiff at times.
“But there’s nothing like race-riding to really bring my fitness back to 100%.”
When asked if he will have any fear when he gets the leg-up aboard Miss Sequoia on Wednesday, Danis gave a level-headed answer that reflects his maturity.
“I will tell you after the race. I’m quite excited to be back, but I won’t know about that part until I ride,” he said.
“I’m above all grateful to be back and here I would like to of course thank my parents for their love and support, my partner Mette who has been through this with me from Day 1 and my bosses Wayne and Vanessa.
“I would also like to thank my riding masters Noel Harris, and David Walsh who looked after me when I fell in the South. Matthew Barnsley, who is the Training, Safety and Welfare Advisor at New Zealand Racing also took good care of my trust fund.
“And a special thank you to Dave Hayes, who is a chief ambulance officer. Till today, he still keeps in touch with me to see if I am all right.”