Memories of Darren Jones to spur Peter Sinclair on at Warialda

Peter Sinclair straps a horse ridden by his great mate Darren Jones who lost his life in a race fall at Warialda in 2017. Photo: Bill Poulos.

It’s been six years since Darren Jones was tragically killed in a three-horse fall at Warialda, when his mount Montague Clan, trained at Moree by Peter Sinclair, blundered, and fell in the 2017 Warialda Sprint.

Upon his passing, Jones was as popular as they came in North West racing circles, and the memory of his devastating loss still stings the racing fraternity, but on Saturday, the Warialda Jockey Club will again pay tribute to their fallen warrior when conducting the Darren Jones Memorial Warialda Sprint

Sinclair, who lost a good friend that day, was grateful that the club was still taking time to honour Jones, not only on their race day, but all throughout the year. 

“That club is amazing for what they do; they go above and beyond anything else I’ve ever seen,” Sinclair said.

“I work for Telstra, and if I’m up in that area, or going through and looking at horses, I always stop in and they have a little monument pretty much opposite where Darren had his fall, and it’s always mowed, and it’s amazing how well they keep it for his friends and family.

“They even rang me last week, and this year they have a rug and trophy again that will be presented to the winner.”

Jones will certainly never be forgotten. The proud Glen Innes product went from a fresh-faced 16-year-old apprentice to Tamworth trainer Merv Corliss, to becoming the leading apprentice in the North and North West and that success continued well into his senior years.

He rode more than 800 winners and partnered some outstanding horses, including bush marvel Akwazoff.

Later in his career, Jones enjoyed a stellar working relationship with Sinclair on the track, with the pair travelling anywhere and everywhere for a winner, while off the track, their friendship blossomed. 

For Sinclair, who legged Jones aboard Montague Clan on that fateful day at Warialda, the memory is still very raw, and he admitted that only recently he could talk about the incident without it getting the better of him.

Darren Jones. Photo: Bill Poulos.

“It still knocks me around and it changed me as a person,” Sinclair said. 

“If you asked me two years ago, I wouldn’t be talking about it.”

Sinclair will have last-start winner Katgully Red contesting the 2023 edition of the Darren Jones Memorial Warialda Sprint, and he touched on what it meant to have a starter in the race.  

“I’ll move anything to try and have a runner there, and especially in that race,” Sinclair said. 

“(Darren’s widow) Sheridan and his family, and Darren’s family will be there, and we want to be there to support the club on the day, because without a doubt they are one of the most amazing clubs for what they are doing to honour his memory. 

“(To win it), that would be as good a race we win all year; it would be emotional, and it would be bittersweet.”

As always, Sinclair will boast a strong hand at Warialda’s non-TAB meeting, with The Defiant One taking on the 1400m Warialda Cup, while maiden duo Lesgo Don and Green Run will both make their debut in the 1000m Maiden Plate. 

“The Defiant One raced well and finished fourth at Bingara, and that to me says he can handle it at Warialda,” Sinclair said. 

“It’s a different track; a tight downhill track and it’s horses for courses, but he worked nice yesterday (Monday) morning, and he should run a good race.

“Then we have a couple of first starters in the maiden, and Green Run will run a nice race, and Lesgo Don; he trialled the other day and he will be out up the front.”

Sinclair’s apprentice Jacob Golden will ride The Defiant One, Katgully Red, and Lesgo Don, while Billy Cray will jump aboard Green Run.

It’s going to be a big dat at Warialda, with 78 nomination for the six-race non-TAB card.

Racing legend Leon Fox will be in attendance, while the club will have fashions on the field, entertainment, and plenty on offer for everyone in attendance.

For more on the race day click here and for nominations click here.

Bill Poulos’ Hoof Note:

Winning the 2015 Warialda Cup with Playa was a special day for our newly-formed syndicate of owners – especially on a day when most of us thought the horse couldn’t possibly win.

We kept forgetting that Darren Jones was on board, though.

A few of the syndicate faithfuls went over to Warialda to watch ‘Jonesy’ steer Playa from next-to-last on the home corner – generally acknowledged as an impossible task on the tight Warialda track – to score by a lip.

We really didn’t expect Playa to do so well that day because we knew the track would be against him.

Playa was one of those horses that liked to drop out the back and storm home at a rate of knots – he just wasn’t expected to win.

But we were on a picnics cups’ mission and Playa needed this run to get him ready for the Golden Triangle.

Also in the Warialda Cup field that day was another Peter Sinclair-trained galloper called One Double, and it too was being aimed at the Golden Triangle at Moree, Mallawa and Talmoi.

There was always a bit of friendly rivalry between the Playa camp and the One Double camp and I remember calling Jonesy a couple of days before the Warialda Cup to let him know our syndicate would “look after” him if he just happened to get the old horse home.

But deep down I thought Playa couldn’t possibly win. 

He was second-up from a spell on a track that clearly didn’t suit and there was a long campaign ahead. 

At the end of our conversation, I said: “Seriously Darren, Playa is no hope of winning but if you can at least beat One Double home there’s a carton in it for you.”

“No worries; I’ll do my best,” Darren replied.

I never went to Warialda that day, and to this day I regret that.

It is one race I’ve always wanted to win as an owner and Darren Jones granted me that wish.

About two hours after the race, however, I received a brief text message from Darren.

It was short and sweet and to-the-point – typical Darren Jones style.

“Corona, thank-you.”

It still makes me smile.