x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

A small trainer with big horse power

Rod Simpson was always destined for a career with horses, but it was a position with the Royal Horse Guards on which the young Simpson first set his heart, rather than a life of racehorse training.

Swyft, the promising grey horse, is given a morning gallop at the Simpson-run stables.
Swyft, the promising grey horse, is given a morning gallop at the Simpson-run stables.

Rod Simpson was always destined for a career with horses, but it was a position with the Royal Horse Guards on which the young Simpson first set his heart, rather than a life of racehorse training. "I was good at sport in school but was a bit small and also something of a gang leader and this sports teacher, who had a yard, asked me if I wanted to be a jockey," said Simpson. "I wasn't keen but I went along anyway and liked it and it all went from there really."

Simpson was 13 when he made his bid for the Horse Guards. "I bunked off school and took a bus into the centre of London," said the handler. "I wanted to be one of the Horse Guards outside Buckingham Palace really badly. So I went along to see if I could join up. They wouldn't have me though and said I was too small and sent me straight back home." It was a crushing blow at the time, remembers Simpson, but he did find his way into racing, initially spending five years as an apprentice at the yard of Cyril Mitchell and also going to veterinary college. He was also, briefly, a jockey before he found his true calling. "I was useless," he said. "But it did give me good insights for what I do now."

When he can find the time, Simpson is a keen golfer and organises the annual jockeys versus trainers tournament which this year will be held in November. Simpson is also a licensed football referee in the local league. "Mike de Kock, Herman Brown and Dougie [Watson] usually play and last year we had Frankie Dettori on the jockeys' team. It was good fun although the jockeys always seem to win." stregoning@thenational