One of the greatest jockeys Australia has ever seen once turned his back on racing to serve and please God.
Darren Beadman says his mind will be on the race he won 20 years ago during today’s Melbourne Cup.
“On Cup Day this year, my mind will no doubt drift back a bit to 20 years ago with Saintly; they are pretty special memories,” Beadman told the Daily Telegraph this week.
The 1996 triumph on Saintly was his second Melbourne Cup victory after riding Kingston Rule to the winning post in 1990.
“Now I have a relationship with Jesus. Nothing could be more precious or important.”
But the handsome champion jockey, who was the pin-up guy of the racing world in the mid-90s, gave it all up in 1997 to go to Bible College and become a pastor.
Though he had always believed in God, Beadman says he had no interest in the Bible or Christianity until his daughter Rachel was born profoundly deaf and doctors said she would never hear or talk.
“One day I felt compelled to go into the Chapel at the Children’s Hospital to pray for her,” he told sports website The Goal.
“Later, my wife’s cousin took us to her local church where pastors again prayed for Rachel. Follow-up tests showed there was a remarkable improvement in her hearing. Now she has enough hearing to be able to learn to speak.”
“While attending one of the services, I made a commitment of my life to Jesus Christ, inviting him to take over my life.”
After the family moved to Hong Kong in 1993, his wife Kim started to focus on the Bible but Darren was distracted by his racing commitments and the marriage began to fall apart.
“While in Hong Kong I received a nine-months disqualification. The appeal was dismissed. On our return to Sydney, we decided to go back to the church we had visited before. While attending one of the services, I made a commitment of my life to Jesus Christ, inviting him to take over my life. I now see that I needed that nine-months disqualification to get stability and balance in my life.”
As a new Christian struggling to understand the spiritual side of life, Beadman started to study the Gospels.
He remembers being struck by Matthew 7:24: “anyone who hears and obeys these teachings of mine is like a wise person who built a house on a rock.” He says God used the verse to show him that he needed to build his life on a firm foundation.
“I study the Bible as much as I can. To me the Bible is like a street directory. While I continue to follow God’s word, I know I will never lose my way.”
“As I continued to read the Bible, my priorities began to change. It took some time to rebuild our marriage and to reassess priorities. July 1997 was a critical turning point. While on a family holiday in America I was called by God to study for the Christian ministry. I decided to give up my career in racing.
“On returning to Sydney, I made the official announcement in August 1997 and retired from racing on the 26th of December 1997.”
Beadman served in full-time ministry for four years at Hillsong Church in Waterloo before returning to the racetrack in 2000.
His riding career continued to dazzle with a further five Sydney jockeys’ premierships, and in 2007 he was inducted into the Hall of Fame, the first active jockey to be so honoured.
After sustaining a brain injury in a bad fall in 2012, he retired from riding again but now works as an assistant trainer in Australia.
“Now I have a relationship with Jesus. Nothing could be more precious or important,” he says.
“I study the Bible as much as I can. To me the Bible is like a street directory. While I continue to follow God’s word, I know I will never lose my way.”More