DARREN Jones has been remembered as a devoted family man and an unrivalled horseman, as hundreds farewelled the jockey at the very place his 30-year career began.
Jones tragically died in a three-jockey fall at the Warialda Cup meeting on April 8.
Family, friends, colleagues and members of the racing fraternity from all over the state converged on Tamworth Jockey Club to farewell the 50-year-old father-of-two on Thursday afternoon.
Mr Jones’ wife, Sheridan, delivered a touching tribute that painted her husband as a devoted partner and father, whose unwavering work ethic never got in the way of the love for her or his “two greatest achievements, his two sons”.
"I'll miss these things and so many more for the rest of my life, but I know how lucky we were to have what we had,” she told the service.
"I have been so proud to be your wife and so completely blessed to share these past 27 years with you because you are the best man I know."
Jones, the eldest of three sons, was born in Glen Innes in 1967 and moved to Tamworth in the mid-1980s at the age of 16 as an apprentice to Merv Corliss.
His career flourished as he went on to become the leading apprentice across the North West, and years later, one of country NSW’s most successful senior jockeys, riding more than 800 winners in his 33-year career.
But despite his success on the track, it was his love for family, and his loyalty to mates and everyone else he came across in the tight-knit industry that people remember most.
"Darren was an amazing person,” his brother, Kevin Jones, said as he delivered a moving eulogy.
“He had a level of integrity to which we should all aspire. He never shied away from a challenge, he'd put his hand to anything, his family was supremely important to him.
“There is a gaping hole in our family that his passing will leave behind.
“Thank you, Darren, for being part of our lives, a truly inspirational husband, father, son, brother, family member, friend and work colleague.
“He is someone we are all better for knowing.”
Jones loved fishing, gardening, rural Australia and his adored St George Illawarra Dragons.
"Family meant everything to Darren,” Kevin said.
“He would take every opportunity to spend time with family and enrich our connections.
"Darren’s greatest achievements were his two sons, Jacob and William.
“He had a deep and intense love for his boys, and their needs came first without question.”
Australian Racing Chaplaincy Reverend Colin Watts led the service, as people were invited to make additional tributes.
Jones was privately cremated after the service.
Donations in lieu of flowers and collection boxes for The Muscular Dystrophy Association.