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Making His Way Back

Deryl Daniels making great progress!

A Hollywoodbets Scottsville winner for DD (Pic – Gold Circle)

Former KZN-based jockey Deryl Daniels celebrated his 43rd birthday on Tuesday.

For a man who has seen both sides of life’s silver coin, he says that despite some mind-blowing mistakes and gross errors of judgement in his 26 years in the saddle, he doesn’t have self pity  – just regrets about the good people in the game that he has disappointed.

“I have made my bed and I have to sleep in it,” says Deryl, who admits that he will be ‘a recovering addict till the day I die’.

He was happy to chat frankly to the Sporting Post and will be spending his birthday on lockdown day 33 at his parents’ home in Vanderbijlpark near the Vaal, where he passes the restrictive days exercising, reading, cooking, gardening and helping his Dad repair a car.

“Talking about ‘mistakes and errors’ almost sounds like I’m minimising all my nonsense and stupidity. If one person can benefit from taking a minute to listen to what I have to say, then maybe some of it was worthwhile. The major focal point in my, and any addict’s recovery, is honesty – and I have nothing more to hide,” he says candidly.

Deryl, who is proudly still a trim 56kgs, thanks to the treadmill that his folks ‘bought but never used themselves’, tells how he has ridden the rollercoaster of sanity and inner peace one day and wanting to almost scream and tear his hair out the next.

Twinkle in the eye of the tiger! Deryl on a raceday (Pic – Gold Circle)

“One of my biggest mental obstacles is  having let some really good people down – in racing and in my family. To this day Mr Doug Campbell calls me regularly. Andrew Fortune has been an absolute godsend and an inspiration. Maybe I shouldn’t mention names – but Corinne Bestel, Robin Watkinson, Glen Kotzen and Frikkie Greyling – amongst so many good people, who were so kind to me. Between them, my family and horseracing, I’m owed nothing. I am the one indebted to so many. Some days are easier than others, but I will always have racing flowing through my blood.”

He joined the SA Jockey Academy in 1992, in the same class as Brandon Morgenrood, Donovan Yeo, Piet Botha and Barend Vorster. Deryl loved horses. He lived for the thrill of race riding, and found he was actually quite good at it.

“Look, I’m not blaming anybody. Taking responsibility is part of my recovery. But I was always a potential addict. Maybe it sounds a touch harsh, but sort of an ‘accident’ waiting to happen, as it were.”

He says he ‘didn’t touch anything’ till he was 21.

“Where do I start? Poor judgement. Bad choices – bad friends selection. They can lead one down dark alleyways. That’s a life reality as a young jockey. You can take one step wrong. Intelligence and talent doesn’t really come into it.

He warns that the combination of money and power, perceived adulation and adrenaline is a lethal cocktail.

“And once you have had a few sips from the chalice, you could be in, boots and all,” he warns, suggesting that things could have been quite different had he had an Andrew Fortune role model and mentor in his life in those vulnerable years.

“No excuses. I wasn’t the first. I definitely won’t be the last. There is too little guidance and control for the young jockey, in my opinion. It’s not an easy game. But if you ride winners and work hard, the rewards are certainly there. But when you are 20, drive a nice car, and have some owners, trainers, the racing public and the media trumpeting your talents, it can be an intoxicating high and a loaded gun in naïve hands. Every apprentice – no matter his background or foundation – needs to be briefed by a man like Andrew Fortune. And watch his interview with Andrew Bon on Youtube. If that doesn’t make one think for a second, what will? I look back and wonder how his wise counsel could have maybe kept me on a straighter course. But that’s all history now. What’s done is done. I must handle it and accept my shortcomings,” he says emotionally.

Deryl says he won’t be touching a ‘glass of anything’ on his birthday.

“For us, one is too many and a thousand is too little! That’s why it’s a no-no. Not even a bloody sip! That’s my history. The booze then the cocaine. I avoid the triggers now. Like the parties. I also find stress has been one of my launch buttons,” he observes frankly, as he tells us how he has read more than 30 books during lockdown and has found peace in spirituality and acceptance.

Ricardo Sobotker and Andrew Fortune

Andrew Fortune (right) with Ricky Sobotker

“I really cannot speak highly enough of a man like Andrew Fortune who has been down this hole and bounced back to be a champion. That’s a hall of fame achievment in the real world.He is always happy to listen and says – ‘go on your knees, brother’ – when I feel vulnerable.”

Deryl concedes that some days are difficult.

“I’m OCD, which is a typical trait of the recovering person. So the lockdown is not a free entrance ticket to a world of surreal control, as one would maybe imagine. It can rather be a catalyst to stress and trauma. I always need to be on the go and doing something. My folks have been fantastically supportive at this time.”

Deryl’s younger sister Chantell has just come out of her radiation treatment for cancer. He is clearly proud of having been in a position to help her.

“Drugs and related spin-offs cause family havoc and is the cause of heartache.  I am just so grateful to be able to put something back into my family and try and repay them for all the disappointment and anxiety that I have caused.”

In between getting his life back on track, and keeping fit, Deryl says the conference facility Zoom has been great for his lockdown rehabilitation sessions with his fellow recoverers.

“Isn’t technology amazing! Between the interaction and sharing, and having people like Andrew (Fortune) to talk to, it’s all part of the long road to better days.”

As for his future plans, Deryl says he still harbours dreams of riding again one day. He last rode in December 2017

“I worked for Ashley Fortune and Clinton Binda riding work after I was suspended. I’m thankful to them for giving me a chance. Bottom line is that this is a hard and cruel game. Cowboys shouldn’t cry after they have played with fire and I can’t blame people for looking at me skew. But I am determined to carry my own cross and get on with life. I have hopes and plans. But for now it’s one day at a time. And there are people in this country that don’t have food or shelter right now. That’s where we all should be focussed. But thanks so much for the opportunity to open my heart on my birthday!”

Deryl’s not looking back anymore! (Pic – Gold Circle)

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24 comments on “Making His Way Back

  1. Dylan says:

    Happy Birthday Derry.. May you have many more happier years. Well done on your progress. A great read this morning. Hope to see you back in the winners box one day.

  2. Donald says:

    Ed , has Deryls licence been withdrawn and , if so , can he reapply at some stage ?

    Appears he is keeping race riding weight / fitness so it would be fantastic if in the future he is licenced again as he appears from the article to have learnt from his negative behavior traits that got him into the position he now finds himself in !

    Wish him the best for whatever the future holds for him.

    1. Editor says:

      Hi Donald
      Thanks – he just called to say thanks for the kind response.
      He said that he could re-apply for his licence. He has some options, but is taken it a day at a time.
      It’s remarkable that he has kept fit and maintained his weight.
      Although admitted that his mother’s home made steak pie was his nemesis under lockdown. 🙂

  3. Brian says:

    Well it’s good to hear some good news in these times. And it’s great to hear that Deryl is on his way up again.

    Godspeed Deryl and Happy Birthday

  4. Gary Turf says:

    Looking forward to your return DD
    I remember he always had lots of ability

  5. Martin le Roux says:

    Deryl was a great apprentice. I remember him riding for the late Cyril Naidoo who I was friendly with. Very seldom made a mistake. Huge talent and I wish him all the best. Happy Birthday Deryl

  6. Rian says:

    Hey DD, you never need to worry about people looking skew at you as those have own Demons,
    Have a great day and can’t wait to see you on a horse again
    Cowboys don’t look back

  7. Dinesh says:

    Happy bday lad. U made me money lol time to travel. N thunder creek. Glens horses

  8. Andy B says:

    If memory serves, DD rode a five timer at Scottsville as an appie.

  9. Ramesh says:

    Happy birthday Deryl, yes to acknowledge your faults is a road to a speedy recovery, be positive and you will achieve your goal.

  10. Anand Chetty says:

    Happy birthday Deryl. Always enjoyed our chats in the jockeys room, especially about books
    Hopefully will see you one day
    Take care my brother

  11. king chris says:

    well done Deryl I remember you as a decent jockey but shit happens you have taken responsibility and I wish you all the best on your road to recovery

  12. Leon Lotz says:

    Deryl remember this.
    I had a filly called Mountain Rose,owned by Steyn Killian.My good friend Andre Kirsten send the filly to me from the Vaal. Andre raced her couple of times and she showed nothing.I tried her for two weeks and thought she is just a riding horse.Deryl came to the farm working horses for me.We just won a 1000 m in Kimberley(still old track)with a maiden.Well Deryl and the filly just clicked.We worked the two horses together,the filly beat the winner by 10 lenths.She was in an open maiden plate 1000 drawn 1 and we ran against the same field as the previous week where my other horse won.Kept Deryl next to my side under lockdown rules, the filly was 70/1 the first race on the Monday,I had R1500 eaway on.Told Deryl you can drink and smoke after races.She won by 10 lenths.Deryl had excelent balance on a horse.
    Deryl get license back ,maybe we can do it again.We did speak today ,happy birthday again

    1. Editor says:

      ‘By my side’… No social distancing, Leon? 🙂

  13. Deryl says:

    My oom Leon ,all about taking them to the cleaners , What great memories. Eendag weer moet nice wory nice

  14. Conrad Callaghan says:

    Belated Deryl, you can be proud of yourself, one day at a time and you shall arrive Deryl. Keep spirituality uppermost and heed Andrew’s advise, take a knee sir, it is only with the help of our higher power can healing be achieved. Amen Deryl, I shall pray for you sir.

  15. DJ says:

    Happy belated birthday DD, somehow as a rookie punter I always felt a need to wager a few Rands on You,
    I have had bragging rights among many a knowledgeable punters at the totes thanks to a few long shots that you brought home
    Look forward to seeing u back in the saddle
    Stay strong

  16. Michael says:

    Happy Belated Birthday Deryl… Will never forget the great ride on Glen Kotzen’s Imperious Star in the 2010 Woolavington 2000… was at Greyville to watch that classy filly win for me at R3000/R500

  17. Mike says:

    Rode for Patrick Merven in my country Mauritius was one of the brightest talented jockey at that time

  18. Mac Naidoo says:

    I always wondered whatever happened to Deryl good to hear from you. Yes demons will follow you when you are young and successful. Happy birthday and hope to see you back on the saddle to make some bucks for us.

  19. Pieta says:

    You know what?….this is going to be a success story….Deryl, I must admit as a punter I’ve never followed you as a jock……but looking forward to seeing you in the saddle…..I will now be looking for your name on the race card…..all the best👍👍

  20. Casey Clarke says:

    Fantastic Deryl…. Be strong, one step at a time will keep you on the right path.

  21. Deryl says:

    Appreciate all the comments and good wishes.

  22. Titch says:

    We would all love to see you back in the saddle boy,when you feel the time is right we will all be right there rooting for you, stay true to yourself D, praying for you my bud, be safe

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