By Greg Douglas – Dr. Sport
SCENE & HEARD: It was a homecoming of sorts for Howard Jones last Sunday when he returned to Hastings Racecourse in an official capacity for the first time in 10 years.
Back in the day his business card was imprinted with the words: “Producer/Director/Cameraman for the local Sport of Kings television show hosted by former jockey Tommy Wolski.
“I can remember our first-ever interview with a young apprentice rider named Mario Gutierrez who could hardly speak a word of English,” Jones says. “He was a shy teenager who really didn’t want any special attention but we threw a microphone in front of him and he tried his best. The audience fell in love with him instantly and his popularity grew from there.”
Jones fondly recalls the up close and personal episodes he produced in the late Ross McLeod’s private office in Richmond, the visit to Russ and Lois Bennett’s sprawling Flying Horse Farm in Westbank on the shores of Okanagan Lake, the one-on-one with horse owner Horatio Kemeny in his South Vancouver home and the private tour of horse owner Butch Goertzen’s ranch in Chilliwack.
“I also remember stepping around horse poop and mud puddles while dragging my camera through the barns on dark and rainy mornings,” Jones says. “Everybody has a story back there. They’re real characters.”
Howard was born in Vancouver, raised in Winnipeg then moved back to Vancouver at the age of 12 when his father settled on the west coast as a purchasing agent and inspector for CP Rail.
“I worked on a cruise ship for six months when I was 19 years old,” he says. “Eventually the electronic industry caught my attention and I traveled the world selling micro processors.”
He was in semi-retirement when the Sport of Kings gig came along and he’s been in awe of the racing industry ever since.
So much so that his recent return to Hastings was as the point man for a team building project in his administrative role for First Memorial Funeral Services in North Vancouver.
“It was a totally different way for most of the staff to be spending a Sunday afternoon,” Jones said with a wry grin. “I told them the only rules they had to follow were to avoid wearing black and there’d be no limit to their consumption of red wine. I must say they followed my instructions splendidly.”