Here's a frank feelgood story about a former Champion Apprentice who has had his ups and downs - a man who has worked hard and honestly to master an addition. He promises us that this is the best version of Deryl Daniels ever and it's here to stay!

Home » Profiles » From The Wilderness…Racing Welcomes A Top Jock Back

From The Wilderness…Racing Welcomes A Top Jock Back

Hats off to a man who has turned his life around

For any of us that have ever been in a dark hole, the prospect of seeing the sunshine again may often have appeared bleak. But former SA Champion Apprentice Deryl Daniels is a man who has converted the ‘nevers’ into ‘maybes’.  And he is out to start all over!

A recovering alcoholic with a cross-addiction to crack cocaine, Deryl, who has not ridden in races since December 2017, has turned his life around and makes an extraordinary comeback to the saddle in KZN in the next few weeks.

Chatting to the quietly spoken 45 year old is an inspiration and experience for anybody who has ever encountered even a brief sense of hopelessness in their life. And who hasn’t?

In April 2018 Deryl, once half affectionately labelled ‘Jack Daniels’ for obvious reasons, was suspended for a year.

Derryl riding work at Summerveld for Peter Muscutt last week (Pic – Candiese Lenferna)

The National Horseracing Authority was castigated at the time for their lack of empathy and insensitivity in their handling of the matter by leading international trainer Mike de Kock, who suggested that the writer of the official media release at the time ‘had no integrity and no empathy for his fellow human beings, and should be ashamed.’

“I was in a very dark hole back then. But ironically that was probably a turning point in my life too. I was amazed that, despite my behaviour and actions, there were folk who actually loved and cared. It just needed me, myself, I, Deryl, to make a decision to change my life. But I couldn’t do it on my own. I really couldn’t. Five years later I have so many people to thank, I really do,” he told the Sporting Post in a candid chat on Sunday.

Today Deryl tells how he had to change as a person.

“As I speak to you today, I feel great. This is the best version of Deryl Daniels ever! I weigh 55kgs. I ride around 15 horses in work at Summerveld in the mornings. My friend Paddy Wynne and I run 10km a day. I am going to tackle the Comrades in 2024. I’m so excited to get back to race riding. And the best thing is, I honestly and truly don’t feel like a drink!”

Deryl joined the SA Jockey Academy in 1992, in the same class as Brandon Morgenrood, Donovan Yeo, Piet Botha and Barend Vorster. He loved the horses and the thrill of race riding, and found he was actually quite good at it. He was crowned SA Champion apprentice of 1995/96. His international cv is impressive and includes Hong Kong, New Zealand, Macau, Dubai, Kuwait, Singapore, Korea, Malaysia, Mauritius, to mention a few!

At the age of 18 the then young apprentice Daniels was an innocent bystander at the shooting attempt on trainer David Ferraris, a series of bullets missing Deryl by inches. He couldn’t sleep with the lights off, for years after the shooting.

The young man with the strict upbringing didn’t touch alcohol and drugs either as a teenager. In fact he was nearing 21, and riding the crest of the proverbial pop-star wave, before he was even tempted.

“I don’t ever want to look for excuses. I don’t need to. This is all about taking responsibility. But as a young jock I was doing better than I ever had. I had money, so-called ‘friends’, admirers. It was one big party. The adrenaline and shallow adulation is surreal. As I told you previously, it’s an intoxicating high and a loaded gun in naïve hands. I am not on social media at all today. And I still can’t stomach the smell of coca-cola. It’s a time travel trigger back to those crazy days,” he reflects as he wonders how different it may have been with a mentor in his life like the legend Andrew Fortune – a man who has provided an ongoing pillar of support for Deryl over the years.

When asked about other triggers, Deryl, who has never married and has no children, openly explains that emotion was a major core platform for him.

“It may sound crazy to some people, but feeling hungry, angry, lonely or even hot, could trigger the need. I’m older and more mature, and thankfully I have the right people around me now. I really have the most wonderful support,” he adds.

The Deryl of early 2018 has come on in leaps and bounds.

Hard at work work at Summerveld for Peter Muscutt (Pic – Candiese Lenferna)

“You cannot imagine how amazing it was for me to talk to the young apprentices at the SA Jockey Academy about a year ago. I shared my experiences and journey. It was a no-holds barred account of what happens when you choose the wrong company, think you are invincible, and make dumb decisions,” he recalls proudly as he fast forwards to the present.

Deryl spent time with his parents and sisters in Vanderbijlpark after being suspended. He was also keeping fit on the hardly-used family treadmill, while riding work for Ash Fortune and Clint Binda.

“I love my family. But it wasn’t the right environment in view of the dynamics. And then came the call from Peter Muscutt. It was 2 days before Christmas of 2019. I was back at Summerveld and felt that I really could dig myself out of the hole. I wanted to turn my life around. I really did.”

Deryl was introduced to Mike Shaw’s Project Exodus, which offers realistic and accessible strategies to address substance dependence.

“Project Exodus has been a lifechanger for me. I have always been a Christian and the philosophy revolves around honesty and accepting God. If ever I am feeling down or feel the need, I can make the call. We are also online every evening between 19h00 and 20h00. Nobody is judging anybody. We all talk openly. I even lead discussions sometimes. They have literally changed my life,” he adds enthusiastically.

Deryl says there have been so many people along his long road back and is reluctant to mention names, but cites leading owner Mike de Haast and his wife Laura as other leading lights in his recovery.

“I had a hip replacement over two years ago. I was in agony. Mike sponsored the operation as I didn’t have medical aid. What do I say? The kindness and generosity on my journey back has been mind boggling.”

Deryl lives on the De Haast-Viljoen farm 2km from Summerveld with Sigi Sauter and her Mom. He enjoys the short trip to work and back on his motorbike.

As we reported previously, for a man who has touched both sides of life’s silver coin, Deryl is adamant that despite some mind-blowing blunders and gross errors of judgement in his 26 years in the saddle, he doesn’t have self pity  – just serious regrets about the good people in the game that he has disappointed.

And he says he is now ready to return to the saddle and believes that it’s never too late.

“I have lost so much in my life. The material things like homes, cars, boats are neither here nor there. But it’s the family and friends, and those that haven’t judged, but chosen to support me, that I want to show what I can do. And I owe this to myself, also!”

Deryl says he has worked hard to do as much work as possible in the mornings at as many yards as possible.

“The trainers have been supportive and encouraging. I have done my time off. I have fulfilled the requirements. I still provide the urine samples to the NHA, for example. It’s part of my licence renewal. I need to show the folk that have supported and helped me through this that I wasn’t a waste of time and a failure. I must have seven years left at least, and am determined to make this work and cannot wait to get back racing.”

Project Exodus suggests that abstinence is not the goal, it’s the beginning. Please read more on


Have Your Say - *Please Use Your Name & Surname*

Comments Policy
The Sporting Post encourages readers to comment in the spirit of enlightening the topic being discussed, to add opinions or correct errors. All posts are accepted on the condition that the Sporting Post can at any time alter, correct or remove comments, either partially or entirely.

All posters are required to post under their actual name and surname - no anonymous posts or use of pseudonyms will be accepted. You can adjust your display name on your account page or to send corrections privately to the Editor. The Sporting Post will not publish comments submitted anonymously or under pseudonyms.

Please note that the views that are published are not necessarily those of the Sporting Post.

15 comments on “From The Wilderness…Racing Welcomes A Top Jock Back

  1. Ross Payne says:

    I recall when Apprentice Deryl Daniels rode winner after winner for the Riley Stable who were based at Ashburton … and I remember thinking, “This kid is destined for the top.”
    Sadly, after his move back to Gauteng, things seemingly went awry in this young man’s life … and I was really saddened to hear of all the turmoil and challenges that he had to endure.
    Needless to say, I’m so pleased that having spent time assisting Trainer Peter Muscutt, a nurturing person … and working hard on himself, he’ll be back race riding.
    Good Luck to you, Deryl.
    PS : You won’t remember me, but as a stipe back then, I remember you from my Monday Morning visits to the Academy. I thought you were a top kid then … and as an old man now, I’m of the same opinion still.
    You go out there and show ’em. 🏆

  2. Cecil Pienaar says:

    Wow, lovely story and comeback. Pat and Faye Riley (both late ) were neighbors for 20 yrs + in Hayfields where I met this young Jock, also Rene Bonham and Peter Dillon. Faye won 2 mega Pick 6s back then. Pat was a flippin good trainer with limited stock, also his brother Mike, both trained horses for my mate Andy Nanthlall.

    I remember Deryl and a Kimberly trainer chatting on this forum about winning at Long odds and him saying he’ll be back

    Everyone deserves a 2nd chance

    GO Deryl

  3. Gregg Clarke says:

    One has to have a deep admiration for anyone that manages to climb a mountain as challenging as the one this man has. Its a remarkable achievement, arguably one of the greatest to confront a human being. So when the climber reaches the summit from that deeply incised valley, they deserve the respect and accolade of others. Big respect to your Deryl. You are an inspiration and best wishes of the journey ahead of you.

  4. Corinne Bestel says:

    Derryl you are a wonderful human being and a true animal lover.
    You have come such a long way and I wish everything of the best.

  5. Michael Pienaar says:

    Deryl go out and Prove your skills and worth again. You got this I know. Bring home those Winners.

  6. Anna Androuliakos says:

    Very proud of your recovery Deryl, and wishing you all the very best in racing, with your new life and in competing in the 2024 Comrades marathon, I remember you fondly from when you used to come and ride at races at Ascot, racecourse in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe… you were an amazing jockey and I have no doubt you will be a champ again, all the very best God Bless you and watch over you

  7. Warren Lewis says:

    Always knew you could do it. Again. Well done.
    Just old friend that met you briefly with A one Deon Barnard.

  8. Patrick Naidoo says:

    Welcome back Champ
    I will follow your rides.
    I knew you would make a come back.
    Patrick Naidoo

  9. BruceMargot says:

    You showed so much potential as a youngster, and we all make mistakes, as long as we learn from them and fix it, you certainly picked a Big Mistake, Addiction, not an easy one to fix, and the fact that you have come back from it, and fixed it, is sign of True Strength of Character, Big and Much respect to you, and it’s never to late for anything in life. Wishing you all the best on you new life journey Deryl, and i will be following your rides with interest

  10. Rajen Rajen says:

    My favourite jockey.then. well done nd welcome back…

  11. Theodore John Roelofsz says:

    The ROAD ahead is winding, thorny, and passes through unknown territory.
    You will not be alone…the genuine, honest and thoroughbred punter will be with you all the way together with the CREATOR.

  12. Nkosingiphile Nkandi says:

    Daniels you must know that we punters have your emotional support. You are one of my favourite jockeys. I like the way you ride, your timing is excellent. We love you man

  13. Anesh Billat says:

    All the best Deryl will be definitely following you and what an inspirational story. I think right about now we all could do with a little inspiration. God bless

  14. Poobi Marais says:

    Congratulations Deryl.
    I want to thank all those that supported u on this journey of recovery it does mean a lot
    Keep it up n enjoy this new found life.
    Keep your faith.

  15. BruceMargot says:

    This is one of the top comments i have ever seen on sporting post, just had to acknowledge it, didn’t know we had a philosopher and a poet amongst our midst, beautifully put, Theodore John Roelofsz i think you just captured what a lot of us were trying to say to Deryl

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

‹ Previous

First Stakes Winner For Gabriell

Next ›

Strydom Joins Varian At Newmarket

Recent Profiles

Joy For New KZN Owner

Some guys have all the luck

A Right Royal Victory

Emotional win for Victor family

Alec Laird – Veteran And A Top Trainer

2023 Betway Summer Cup aspirations

When You Get A Chance…Take It!

Quietly spoken jock converts a chance into points!

Bok Billy Becomes An All Black

Emigrating for his sons' sakes

The Botha Family’s Dream Machine

Here's a guy who can train winners!

SA Jockey Is Off To Dubai!

One of our best value lightweights!

Tears For Fearless Frankie?

The Frankie Dettori 2023 farewell tour

East Cape Jockey Calls It A Day

'I'm not getting any younger!'

‘Toxically Optimistic’ Smith Is Looking Ahead

Wehann Smith - ever the optimist!

Mauritian Apprentice’s Memorable Day

Best birthday gift ever for Mum

Dylan Brandishes A Silver Sword

Things are happening at Newmarket!

Bright Blue Sky In The Cape!

Ready to take the Cape stars on in their own backyard

Warren Kennedy – Making SA Proud

The Durbanite is doing great things

David Downs The Goliaths

Sandringham Summit may go for SA Triple Crown

Mark Khan – A Champion Change Of Direction

Learning under the expert guidance of Grant Maroun

Brev’s Heart Is Ablaze

Family and friends turn up in numbers to shout him home

Ronnie’s Happy To Be Back In Saddle

Kranji first is off at 06h00

Grant’s Ready To Splash Out!

A jockey to follow in the season