Trip South Justified

Date: 17 Oct 2023

Trip South Justified


NZ Racing News reports:


Daren Danis took a gamble when heading to Ashburton’s postponed meeting on Monday, but it paid off big time when taking out the Gr.3 Barneswood Farm Stakes (1400m) aboard Star Of Justice (Justify), bringing up his 100th career riding win and first at Group level.

With many of the northern jockeys already engaged to ride at New Zealand Bloodstock’s Ready To Run Sale breeze-ups on Monday, a number of rides became available at Ashburton and Danis decided to take advantage of this opportunity.

“I had a hard decision to make because I was doing the breeze-ups on Monday as well for Kiltannon Stables, and they are really good friends of mine,” Danis said.

“Parmar (Niranjan Parmar) was originally on that horse (Star Of Justice) and when the meeting got postponed there were a couple of changes with jockeys in that race with some of the North Island jockeys not coming down.

“I saw Star Of Justice still had no jockey, so I chased down that ride. I messaged (trainers) Sam (Bergerson) and Mark (Walker) and said I really wanted to ride her because I thought she was a really good chance after studying the field.”

Still not assured of a ride in the Group Three, Danis decided to take a leap of faith and head south, having secured a number of other good mounts on the card.

“I just had to wait and when I got off the plane at 7:40 I rang my manager and they said I got the ride on Star Of Justice, and that was a relief,” he said.

“We just had to beat a couple of good ones in Illicit Dreams and Viva Vienna. The race played out in my head as soon as I heard I got the ride.

“I thought it would be a really good way to get my 100th (victory), by winning my first Group Three, and it happened.”

While Danis said it was great to bring up his 100th win on Monday, it has been a frustratingly slow process, with injury plaguing his career in recent years.

“I have been riding for a while and it is not as many (wins) as others at the same stage, but I have been injured so many times. Every time I have got injured it has been about a year of recovery to get back,” he said.

“Back in 2017 I broke my back and it was quite bad because the fracture was nearly puncturing the spinal cord. Thankfully I was able to get back to doing what I love – riding racehorses.

“The recent one (injury) was on the last day of the Hastings carnival last year. I fell and broke a few ribs and tore my meniscus in my left knee.

“I rode a week of trackwork and the breeze-ups with that knee and I didn’t realise until my first day of riding at the races that I thought it wasn’t getting better, so I better go and get it checked out, and found I had torn the whole cartilage in that knee.”

Danis said he owes a lot to his manager, Sam Durant, as well as his physio, family and friends for helping him get back to the races after a long road of rehab.

“I have only just come back from my last injury. It was starting to get a bit hard at first but my manager, Sam Durant, and I have worked hard to get back to where we were, and my family and friends have been great supporters and have helped push me along,” Danis said.

“Sam is a PT (personal trainer) in the air force in Blenheim. He is not just my manager, but he is my PT coach and rings me up every day to see how I am going. He is a really good friend as well.

“My physio in Matamata is the same physio I went to when I broke my back, so he knows how my body works and he has been great.

“I was six weeks in a knee brace, and I lost about 3cm of muscle mass in my left thigh, and I was relying a lot on my right leg a lot.

“I had to balance them out and it has been a lot of hard work. But here we are today, and it is good to see all the hard work has paid off.

“I have got five (wins) now (this season) and I am just getting started. I will put my head down and bum up and keep working hard.”

Danis is now hoping he can retain the ride on Star Of Justice for next month’s Gr.1 Barneswood Farm New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m) at Riccarton, but he already sees the crows circling and admits he will have his work cut out to stay onboard.

“She is a really nice horse and I hope I get back on her. I am sure the big boys will be looking to get on her, but I want to chase that ride as well,” he said.

“She has beaten a really good horse in Viva Vienna and she was still going strong past the line over 1400m, so she should be a big chance in that race.”


Sign up to our newsletter