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King of the Coast salutes farewell

By Andrew Adermann

Daniel Griffin, one of Queensland’s most acclaimed jockeys, bowed out in style at the weekend riding one final winner before hanging up the silks.

After announcing his retirement from the sport earlier this year, the aptly nicknamed ‘King of the Coast’ left Aquis Park for the final time a winner, lifting The Driller over the line in a trademark ride over hot favourite Super Contender.

The triumph added to a tally that includes more than 1200 wins, and put the cherry on top of a 10th and final Gold Coast Jockey Premiership.

The only sour note coming in the form of a steward’s reprimand for his winning celebration, something that Griffin wasn’t overly concerned by.

“I had three major chances on the day so to get the win for Hoss and Gillian (Heinrich) was amazing, they have been such big supporters of mine and I probably wouldn’t have won two or three premierships without their support,” Griffin said.

“To be honest, I never really thought I deserved that kind of send-off; to me I’m just turning up to go to work.

“The Gold Coast Turf Club really got behind it but I didn’t think they would take it to that level just because of me, I was really gob smacked.

“The stewards have a job to do so I can’t begrudge them for giving me a reprimand and if they had deemed it was worthy of a fine then I would’ve copped it on the chin – it was just so much relief so it was hard to hold it back.”

Aquis Park Gold Coast

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Griffin never had aspirations to be a jockey growing up, however, one faithful trip to the races in his teenage years proved the catalyst for a life-changing career.  

“I wasn’t very good at school and I was never really interested in it, so I left school to go work out at the station in Tanami Downs at 15,” he said.

“I got a bit homesick so ended up back home where my parents gave me the ultimatum of go back to school or get another job.

“They took me to the Gold Coast Turf Club and that was my first day at the races and I just thought that this is where I want to be.”

Griffin started his apprenticeship with Barry Baldwin in 1995, staying there for two years before moving to Sydney to work with Bryan Guy.

In Sydney, he finished second in the 1999/2000 Apprentice Premiership to none other than Hugh Bowman before arriving back in the Sunshine State once more.

What followed was a simply dominant reign over the Gold Coast jockey premierships, taking out a record six straight titles by 2011/12, and finishing with 10 overall – including this season’s.

“I never envisioned my career being as successful as it panned out to be with 10 premierships,” Griffin said.

“When I was doing my apprenticeship in Sydney I came second and then came back up here to Queensland and won an apprentice title.

“I think I came third in my first year at the Gold Coast, but from there I just got that competitive bug to want to keep winning.”

His career was not without setbacks and heartache, suffering an ACL injury to his knee after a horror fall in 2012.

A shoulder injury in 2017 and a broken neck in 2018 followed, but his determination to get back on a horse never wavered.

Reflecting on his 10 crowns, there are a select few that Griffin says stand out to him above the rest as a result of the injuries he endured throughout his career.

“To be honest, there’s a few I hold a little higher than others just coming back from some of the injuries I’ve sustained,” he said.

“When I hurt my knee they said I might not ever be able ride again, and then I came back from that and broke my neck, and came back from that and hurt my shoulder.

“So there were a few in there that were milestones just because of the mentality to overcome those injuries.

“With the knee I had three operations just to get back and the last operation was a matter of if it didn’t work then that was my career over but thankfully it did.

“I was always determined to keep making it back from those injuries and I think I just needed to show myself that I could.”

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Earlier this year, doctors delivered him the news that his resilience could no longer match, informing him that his years of wasting had left him with a blood disorder that could eventually start shutting down his organs if he continued to ride professionally.

Unfortunately, he was left with no choice but to retire at the age of 39.

“I’ve been wasting since I was 18 so you always know that in the back of your head there’s going to be a point where it takes a real toll on your body,” Griffin said.

“When I was struggling to make weight and was really fatigued, I knew there were some underlying issues – I expected it, but we always think that we could ride forever.

“I still thought I had a few years left in me but the last time I got my shoulder operated on it didn’t all go to plan so I was told back then that the next injury might end my career.

“With that on the back of the blood issues from wasting, I knew someone was trying to tell me something.”

Although cut short, Griffin is more than content with what he has achieved in the sport, citing one particular day in August 2010 as one that stands out the most.

“I just want to be remembered as someone who was competitive and dedicated to all of the trainers and owners that have supported me; that’s what makes you get out of bed every morning,” he said.

“Getting the 10th premiership was probably one of the biggest achievements in my career, but I rode six winners in a day from seven rides so that was massive.DSC-1831.jpg

“I started the day with three wins, then had a second placing and followed that up with another three wins so I can’t really look past that day.”

Griffin made a point to make note of a few people in particular who he cannot thank enough for their continued support over his 25-year journey.

“I just want to thank the support of the Gold Coast Turf Club and Steve Hawkins who was a big part of my career,” he said.

“Mel Eggleston started me off down at the Coast, so I need to make mention of him as well as Nat McCall who has been a big supporter of mine towards the end of my career.

“Away from the track, obviously I need to say thank you my fiancé Taylor Williams, I am so grateful for the ongoing support she has provided – she is my rock.”

Unlike many sportsmen, Griffin retires at the top of his game and although his time in the silks has drawn curtains, it may not be the last time we see him at the track as he hopes to eventually find work back in the industry, if and when the opportunity arises.

“I’d like to get into a mentoring role for the apprentices, and would even be interested in something on the stewards side of things,” he said.

“There’s nothing really open at the moment but I would love to give back to the industry in some sort of capacity.”