Emotions run deep as Rockatorio wins inaugural Darren Jones Memorial Warialda Sprint

IT seemed only right that Moree’s Sinclair family should quinella the first running of the 1000m Darren Jones Memorial Sprint at Warialda on Saturday – a race named in honour of one of the greats of bush racing.

Jones was tragically killed in a horrific three-horse pile-up in the Warialda Sprint last year.

He was riding Montague Clan, a horse trained by Peter Sinclair.

But it was Sinclair’s son Nathan that led back the memorial’s inaugural winner, Rockatorio.

The seven-year-old, owned by Nathan in partnership with Tamworth’s Trevor and Barb Davis, raced clear under the guidance of Josh Oliver to score by more than four lengths from Peter Sinclair’s Track Flash.

Both geldings were resuming at a meeting shrouded in sadness.

The past 12 months have been gut-wrenching for Darren’s grief-stricken wife, Sheridan, who attended Saturday’s meeting with Darren’s brother Geoff, to bravely unveil a sandstone plaque erected in honour of her late husband.

Sheridan Jones and brother-in-law Geoff Jones, with Warialda Jockey Club president Peter Caskey, unveil a plaque erected in honour of their husband and brother, jockey Darren Jones, who was tragically killed at last year’s Warialda Cup meeting (Image Copyright Bill Poulos).

“We’d like to sincerely thank (club president) Peter Caskey and the Warialda Jockey Club, and the Warialda community, for their enormous support, generosity and kindness,” Sheridan said.

“I can’t believe that a year has gone, but I would like to thank the racing community at large that has given us the most incredible amount of support over the last 12 month, in particular Peter Sinclair and his family, and chief steward, Shane Cullen.

“It has been a very emotional day. When I got here I was very upset, and thought that maybe coming here was the wrong decision . . . I thought, ‘I can’t do this’.

“But the people here today have just been lovely. There have been people that I don’t even know come up to me and say beautiful things.

Sheridan Jones with jockey Josh Oliver and trainer Nathan Sinclair after Rockatorio’s runaway win in the inaugural Darren Jones Memorial Warialda Sprint on Saturday (Image Copyright Bill Poulos).

“And the Warialda Jockey Club has just been amazing. I think there is something about these little, once-a-year places . . . they just know how to do things right,” Sheridan said.

The Sinclair family also donated a print of Jones returning to scale after winning the 2015 Warialda Cup on Playa, that now hangs proudly in the jockeys’ room at the rustic bush track.

In an emotional address to racegoers, club president Peter Caskey said that the past 12 months had been very emotional.

“Darren’s death was a terrible shock . . . it saddened our committee for a very long time,” Caskey said.

Rockatorio races clear to win the inaugural Darren Jones Memorial Warialda Sprint for Moree trainer Nathan Sinclair (Image Copyright Bill Poulos).

“The club felt helpless at times. We were able to assist in a fundraiser for Darren, but we wanted to do more than that, and when the opportunity came up to share with Sheridan and Geoff a joint project, a memorial plaque, we really welcomed that opportunity.

“It is the Warialda Jockey Club’s intention to hold this race as an annual event, and we would like to think that down the track prize money will be increased and the race will become one of the feature sprint races on the non-TAB circuit.

“The Warialda Jockey Club will certainly make sure that Darren is not forgotten, nor his contribution to country racing,” he said.

Tears were shed as Oliver brought Rockatorio back to the enclosure.

“He won brilliantly today, and it was just great to be able to win this race,” part-owner Trevor Davis said.

Trainer Nathan Sinclair said winning the inaugural Darren Jones Sprint was a great honour.

“It was a very emotional race to win,” Nathan said.

“Darren was very close to us all and over the years we got to know him as a close friend.

“It’s very sad to see things happen like this, but Darren would’ve been watching – he would’ve been cheering it home,” he smiled.

Words and Images Copyright Bill Poulos

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