BY Greg Douglas – Dr. Sport
SCENE & HEARD: When Pat Jarvis was asked to create a memorial blanket for today’s fifth race – the Mark Walker Purse – she immediately searched her inventory for something in pink.
“Mark always wore a pink helmet cover,” says the full-time trainer and part-time seamstress. “It was his favourite colour and reflected his flamboyant personality.”
Walker will always be remembered for having a dramatic flare that made him one of the most-liked jockeys on the grounds. His 1,979 career victories over 30 years often resulted in a celebration leap from his winning mounts that had photographers clamouring to catch the moment.
Walker left his adoring family, friends and fans at the far-too-early age of 61 last November. One of those friends, North Vancouver’s Charles Steele, was a boat owner who anchored next to Mark’s older powerboat called Driftwood at Deep Cove North Shore Marina. “The kids in the kayak shop referred to him as ‘Captain’ and most of us didn’t even know he was a jockey,” says Steele. “Mark was just a down-to-earth guy who loved to be around people and people loved being around him.”
It was son Tyler who orchestrated today’s ceremony and who also provided Mark with one of the most cherished memories of his racing career. With ample encouragement from Jarvis and fellow trainer Jim Brown, Tyler pursued a riding career of his own. In April of 2009, Tyler made his debut as a jockey at Hastings Racecourse competing against the man he admired most in the world … the man he referred to as ‘Pops’. Neither Walker appeared in the winner’s circle that day but it didn’t matter.
The two later happily posed for pictures with 5-foot-10 Tyler towering over his 4-foot-7 father.
Today Tyler works as a valet in the jocks room and continues to gallop horses in the early morning Hastings mist.
The winning connections of Race 5 this afternoon will no doubt offer Tyler that treasured pink blanket in memory of his Dad. And that alone will make the Mark Walker Purse something very special.