When Daniel Oldham rode at Quirindi on Boxing Day, it signalled his return to the saddle following a 21-year hiatus.
The 41-year-old had not ridden in a race since running second on Master Paul at Wauchope on June 24, 2000, and the three-kilogram claiming apprentice explained why he was forced to take time away from the racing game.
“I was apprentice to Ken Lantry and Mal Gerard in Coffs Harbour in 1999 but I went off the rails for 22 years,” Oldham said.
“I got disqualified for six months for doing the wrong thing and I left the game but now I’m 41 and it was time to change my life around.”
When quizzed on his sudden return to race riding, Oldham explained that he was simply motivated to turn his life around.
“If I didn’t change something, I would have ended up in jail, so I decided to come back,’ Oldham said.
“There was a job application on Facebook for Mel’s stable and I thought I would apply, and Brad Herne, he used to be foreman for Darren Smith years ago, and he is now foreman with Mel and that helped me out.
“I got the job with Mel and haven’t looked back since.”
Oldham had to work hard before renewing his jockey’s licence with Racing NSW, but the Tamworth hoop explained it was well worth the wait.
“With Racing NSW, I had to earn my spot again, which is understandable when you consider that I was out of the game for so long,” Oldham said.
“It’s good now and things have never been better.
While Oldham didn’t land a winner upon his return at Quirindi, he went close, recording a second, a third and two fourths from five rides.
“It was amazing being back,” Oldham said.
“I had my dad, uncle and sister there. Being part of it all again was an amazing experience and it made me realise what I want in life and that I want to be a jockey.
“I’m focused and dedicated and taking it day-by-day and I’ll keep trying to be a better person than I was yesterday.”
Whilst working with O’Gorman in Tamworth, Oldham struck up a good friendship with champion picnic jockey and former Group and Listed winning hoop, Brent Evans, and he explained that their relationship had played a big part in his return to racing.
“Brent is my best mate. He is the one I go to with riding questions; even yesterday, we jumped on the mechanical horse for practice,” Oldham said.
“He is a good bloke to have around and my boss, family, Brent and his family and our team have stuck by me through thick and thin and are A-Grade people.”
Oldham is hoping to kick off 2022 in winning fashion, with five rides at Tamworth’s New Year’s Day meeting.
“I’ve got five rides and a couple of good chances,” Oldham said.
“I will give every horse every hope of winning and I would love to ride a winner for my family, my boss and my 10-year-old daughter that is my world.
“I’ve got half a kilo to drop, and I have been training my backside of for it.”
Readers can check out Oldham’s rides and Tamworth’s New Year’s Day fields by clicking here.
Racegoers will also be looked after at Tamworth, with gates opening at 1pm and a bar and canteen operating alongside betting facilities and kids activities.