Trevor Simpson continued to demonstrate why he was a 5-time champion in Jamaica last night at ASD with a wire-to-wire win on Meshuguna in the first race for trainer Bev Hamilton, and the longshots finally got rolling in the sixth race, culminating with a $2,597.10 Triactor in the last.
Simpson showcased a different set of riding skills than those he displayed on his first winner here -- this time with a smooth rating job under pressure going a route of ground. He got Meshuguna to the top out of the gate, softly got the horse to come back to him without cranking him in half, and repeated the strong hand ride he used to win aboard Shamus on Me ($20.40) last weekend to hold off the ralliers in the stretch.
Watch the abbreviated video at the end of this post to see Simpson winning aboard Shamus on Me (#2 in white silks) for trainer Jerry Gourneau in the fifth race last Monday, May 21. Pay special attention to Simpson's hands at the top of the stretch when favourite In the Other (#3 in blue silks) challenges, and again when Shamus On Me is is drawing away late. Note how Simpson is in perfect rhythm with his horse’s stride.
Hand riding a horse is much more difficult than it looks, and in fact many jockeys actually hurt a horse’s chances by being out of sync with their horses in the stretch. Instead of helping their horses and propelling the horse forward, they actually throw the horse’s action off and get them all confused. The additional benefit to a powerful hand ride is that it gives a horse confidence, which is transferred along with the jockey's enthusiasm, through the hands to the horse, who responds in kind.
“The less I can use a whip on a horse the better,” said Simpson. “The whip is just a reminder.”
Not to be outdone in the riding department, Paul Nolan took the second and third races on Friday night to increase his win total to 15, seven more than Robert Reeves Jr. and a long ways in front of Simpson, who is just getting started. From just 10 mounts however, Simpson has record of 2-2-3. That’s a win clip of 20% and an in-the-money score of 70%. The latter stat is the best in the ASD jockey colony right now, and the win percentage is second only to that of Paul Nolan, who is currently winning at an stellar 28% rate.
Additional singles last night went to Prayven Badrie, Tim Moccasin, Larry Munoz, Jennifer Reid and Chavion Chow. Winning trainers included Bev Hamilton, Wade Rarick, Rob Atras, Jerry Gourneau, Darrell Lawson, John Kolochuk, Wendell Matt and Tom Gardipy Jr.
The winners of the seventh and eighth races last night should be noted by handicappers, as they were conditioned by top trainers Tom Gardipy Jr. and Wendell Matt respectively, yet they paid $20.90 and $83.80 to win. The Exactor in the eighth race paid $494.90; the Triactor paid $2,597.10; the Superfecta paid $1,000.30 for 20 cents; and nobody had the Pick-3, which paid $91.70 for two out of three. It pays to follow sharp trainers and not just those at the top of the standings.
The sharpest horsemen and jockeys are not always at the top of the standings, and although their percentages are usually high, they sometimes go unnoticed. This is a boon to bettors who do their homework. Wendell Matt, the trainer of the $83.80 winner, won at a 24% rate here last year. His horses almost always have a chance to win. Emerald’s Diamond should have been 6-1, not 40-1. And trainer Tom Gardipy Jr. certainly needs no introduction as one of the best conditioners here.
The mark of an exceptional trainer or jockey is the ability to get something out of their horses that other trainers and jockeys cannot. Anyone can saddle or sit on a favorite with tons of talent, but what about the 20-1 shot that runs out of its skin on the rider or trainer change. If you watch closely, you’ll notice the latter pattern repeating itself with certain trainers and jockeys. Watch and wait for their horses at good odds. They are almost always overlays.
Trevor Simpson has been riding some decent horses since he arrived from his home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, but he hasn’t been making any mistakes either, which is another sign of a good jockey. We’ve seen name jockeys arrive in Canada with over-inflated stats in the past, and many have been a product of the good horses they were riding. Very few hyped-jockeys can actually ride as good as their stats say they can. Simpson looks like an exception to the rule.
Simpson arrived at Assiniboia Downs with five riding titles from Jamaica, where they race two days a week, but there have been numerous champion jockeys that have arrived in North America from other countries that haven’t lived up to their stats. They can ride and win, but like numerous jockeys from North America, they are only as good as the horses they ride. If you’re a bettor, you want something more than that. You need an edge, and knowing which jockeys can really ride will give it to you.
As a general example, Simpson rode She’s Traditional to a shocking 99-1 upset in the first classic race of 2012 in Jamaica, the 1000 Guineas in open company on April 7, but was promptly taken off the horse. Three weeks later, She’s Traditional came back to run 10th in the second classic of the season, the Bigga Jamaica Oaks for fillies only, with a different jockey.
Simpson holds the record in Jamaica for winners in a single season with 172 in 2002, and he was also awarded the Order of Distinction in Jamaica, which not only speaks for his riding ability, but also for his effect on the community at large. Awarded by the Governor General through The British Monarchy, the Order of Distinction is not given out lightly. Yet it’s neither the winners nor the Order of Distinction that made Simpson the rider he is today.
Simpson spent his early days at Caymanas Park in Jamaica (which interestingly became the home of racing there in 1958, the same year Assiniboa Downs opened) walking horses, cleaning buckets, running bandages and learning from the grooms.
“The grooms in Jamaica ride their horses, they do everything,” said Simpson. “They put me up on horses, taught me how to hold my reins, how to sit on a horse, how to crouch down, how to get along with the horses.”
All of the above, and particularly walking horses, are among the best methods of getting to know how the mind of a horse works – essential education for an elite jockey.
But we’re thinking Simpson got his true race-riding education in the salty east coast jockey colonies of Finger Lakes, Aqueduct, Monmouth Park, Atlantic City, Penn National, Philadelphia Park, Garden State, Laurel, Delaware Park, Rockingham and Suffolk Downs, the latter track being where he received the worst injury of his career, a broken arm. Despite being his own agent, Simpson won 123 races and finished in the top three 510 times from 1993-2001. So what was the difference between Jamaican racing and North American racing?
“Patience,” said Simpson. “You have to wait longer to make your move.”
Ultra-polite during his interview with us, it seems the old school “Yes. Sir.” mentality was never lost on the 43-year-old Simpson. Someone taught him respect, and they taught him manners. On that note we’ll credit Simpson’s father Clifton, his wife of 18 years Cybil, their five children including jockey Tadious, and some of the elite gentleman owners and trainers like Kenneth Mattis and Philip Feanny in Jamaica.
Simpson never got the big horse on the east coast, the horse that could shoot him into the spotlight, the goose that lays the golden eggs in the form of live mounts -- a horse like Triple Crown hopeful I’ll Have Another, which has worked wonders for the career of talented young jockey Mario Gutierrez. So he went back to Jamaica and won riding titles and awards.
Simpson is back in North America now. He even has an agent this time in the form of Mark “Lucky” Drabing. He’s here because a Jamaican jockey named John Mills suggested he call Assiniboia Downs’ CEO Darren Dunn.
And this time…people are noticing.[youtube]http://youtu.be/nst3hB7ZSlU[/youtube]