‘The spark never quite went out’: Beasley

Danny Beasley and War Affair in their heyday.

By Michael Lee, Singapore Turf Club

Danny Beasley thought he would not miss the sound of gates crashing back, the fellow jockeys’ frantic yelling amid the pounding hooves, all the spills and thrills that encapsulate that mad adrenaline rush towards the winning post.

How wrong he was.

Four years ago, Beasley had lost the hunger. When he dropped the bombshell he was hanging up his boots, he then said he had become a little stale with the whole riding caper.

Danny Beasley has enjoyed his four years beings more hands-on with the training side of racing.

A sense of having ticked most boxes on his wishlist as a jockey meant he was ready to bow out on his own terms, when he was still at the peak of his powers, not when his star had dimmed.

Even a Group 1 Lion City Cup win on Lim’s Cruiser in April 2017 was not the salvation to keep him in the game.

He had made up his mind there would be no turning back, he was done. But that didn’t mean he would entirely walk away from the game that has given him so much.

The former top Sydney hoop who also became a household name at Kranji for 11 years (except for 2015 when his licence was not renewed) could have gone on for another 10 years, but he shocked the racing world when he called time on a successful 25-year-old riding career to cross over to the other side to join Kranji trainer and good mate Daniel Meagher in 2017.

Straight after relinquishing his jockey’s licence, the Golden Slipper-winning jockey joined Meagher as his stable supervisor cum senior track rider before eventually being promoted to the assistant-trainer position.

A new chapter had begun towards, possibly, a training career one day, but four years later, he has turned back the clock.

Maybe the current post-COVID-19 world we live in had a catalyst effect, but Beasley had a change of heart and has come full circle.

The lure of racing was too hard to resist. The spark was back, but it probably never quite went out.

With the backing of his family and Meagher, Beasley applied for a fresh licence at the end of last year, was unfortunately knocked back, but had another crack, and this time, the door was knocked down.

The Singapore Turf Club just announced that it has granted Beasley a jockey’s licence effective from February 15, 2021 until the end of the year.

Now 45 and married to a Singaporean and the father of two children born here, Beasley is looking forward to the “Beasley Reloaded” chapter.

“I never lost the love of riding,” he said.

“It’s true that for a month not riding trackwork, the spark for racing was lost a bit, but in the last three years that have since passed, I have been getting a bit itchy to get back into race-riding.

“I always told myself I would give myself two to three years to make a decision where my life goes. Last year was a difficult time for everyone, but it was around the last quarter that I seriously thought about a comeback.

“My wife, parents, Dan have all encouraged me and they’ve given me the guts to go back to riding. The more I started to focus on that, the hungrier and hungrier I got, I was riding in more trials and getting back to the fitness level I had as a jockey.

“It’s a very unique time we have been living in in the last couple of months, with so many jockeys leaving. I put myself forward for a licence, hopeful it would be considered.

“Of course, I was a bit disappointed I was knocked back the first time around, but I didn’t give up hope. I fully understood the Club’s position while remaining positive and not feeling discouraged.

“I told myself it would be nice if it happened, and I’m really glad and appreciative it has. I’m more than happy to start all over again and thank the Club for the opportunity.”

Beasley said having never left the scene, and being exposed to the side of racing he knew precious little before his retirement, will give him an extra edge when he is tossed back into the racing arena as early as this Saturday.

“The experience I’ve had with Dan has been invaluable. The amount of stuff I’ve learned has been amazing,” said Beasley.

“I was obviously a lot more hands-on and I’m so grateful Dan’s taken me back, as I’ve really improved as a horse person.

“Having been part of the training side of the operations, it’s a big advantage I will bring to the track when I will now ride Dan’s horses in a race, but I’m also looking forward to riding for other trainers.”

Forever the educator, Beasley said getting a chance to sit in the jockeys’ room amongst the up-and-coming riders like Hakim Kamaruddin and Iskandar Rosman is the other buzz he is looking forward to.

“Hopefully, I can be a role model to the youngsters coming through the ranks,” said the winner of close to 2,000 races, earned mostly in Australia, but also in Hong Kong, Macau and of course Singapore where his win-meter stopped at 528 before his hiatus kicked in.

“I always loved doing that before – be there for them if they need any help and guidance, and I’m more than happy to share my experience with them again.

“It’s not just me, they can also ask other experienced jockeys like John Powell and Vlad Duric, more so when there are not many around these days.”

For a start, Beasley said he was aware of three bookings Meagher had confirmed for him.

“Dan’s already booked me on Asaad, Lim’s Zoom and Red Claw. I should have a better idea if there are any more rides coming up very soon,” he said.

Ring-rustiness may creep in for the first couple of races given he last rode in a competitive race on Singapore Derby day on July 9, 2017 when he signed off on a winning note with a double aboard Dream Comes True and Kolombia, both for Meagher. He was sitting third on the Singapore jockey’s premiership on 35 winners when he left.

But he has no doubt he will blow away the cobwebs in no time.

“Nothing beats riding in races to bring your race fitness back,” he said.

“This is the longest break I’ve ever had as a jockey by a long way, but it’s amazing how quickly I’ve got back to full race fitness. I currently walk around 54kgs but by March, I should drop further back to 52-53kgs.

“I’m really looking forward to riding back at Kranji. There will be new jockeys (like Louis-Philippe Beuzelin, Marc Lerner, Simon Kok Wei Hoong, Juan Paul van der Merwe, among others) I’ve never ridden against before.

“It’ll be great to see how I measure up. It’s a whole new ball game awaiting me.”

Beasley has never clinched the supreme accolade of a Singapore champion jockey title, with his best performance as the runner-up to Manoel Nunes (83 winners versus 108) in 2014.

Still, his record in big races speaks for itself. Altogether, he boasts 20 Group 1 wins to his name, 14 in Australia, the 2003 Golden Slipper with Polar Success the most famous, and six at Kranji – two Raffles Cups (Cheyenne Dancer in 2009 and War Affair in 2014), two Kranji Miles (Cash Luck in 2013 and War Affair in 2014), one Singapore Guineas (War Affair in 2014) and one Lion City Cup (Lim’s Cruiser in 2017).

It was a roll of honour most thought was already consigned to the archives of racing, but at 45, the born-again jockey gets an unbelievable chance to dust it off and add a few more feathers to his cap.