By Greg Douglas – Dr. Sport
SCENE & HEARD: It was one of those “hey, I know that guy” moments at Hastings Racecourse when Darrell Jones suddenly appeared in the winner’s circle last Sunday.
Whether you’ve met him or not, we all “know” Darrell Jones from his Save-On-Foods grocery chain television ads that appear throughout the province on a regular basis.
Fittingly enough, it was Commercial Appeal that provided up-and-coming trainer Tara Neigel with her first win of the 2019 season, resulting in the jovial Jones front and centre for the traditional victory photo.
Commercial Appeal is one of two thoroughbreds Neigel trains for D J Racing and is quick to point out that Darrell Jones is “as sweet a person as he appears on television”.
“I know his daughter quite well from racing,” Tara says. “The Jones family has been involved in the industry for many years, dating back to when Peter Stephen was their trainer.”
Neigel acquired her trainer’s licence in 2009 after grooming for Dave Forster, Rob Gilker and more recently Glen Todd where she doubled as a pony outrider. “I just recently went out on my own and my mission now is fill up my barn.”
There were plenty of high-fives and hugs this past Sunday when Commercial Appeal, a seven-year-old grey mare, rallied in the stretch under jockey Denny Velazquez to get the nod in a photo finish with P G Star.
Darrell Jones’ presence as an owner in the winner’s circle instantly got the attention of racing fans along the outside railing who warmly acknowledged his celebrity status. Business in Vancouver magazine described the president of Save-On-Foods as “an affable guy with an aw-shucks manner and small-town charm”.
Jones was born in Cranbrook and began his career bagging groceries while he was still going to school. Today he oversees some 20,000 employees for the largest retail food company in western Canada.
“There’s something that gets in your blood when you become involved in the grocery business that’s hard to describe,” he says. An ardent fan of the Vancouver Canucks and BC Lions, Jones also enjoys golfing and walking with his wife on White Rock Beach.
Judging by his cheerful presence at Hastings, it seems safe to assume the horse racing fraternity hasn’t seen the last of him.