Magazine article The Spectator

The People's Trainer

Magazine article The Spectator

The People's Trainer

Article excerpt

The shirt was canary yellow. The long, billowing raincoat was emerald green. The beard may now be grizzled but the eyes were shining bright and the tongue, as ever, was in perpetual motion. Rod Simpson, the eternal Comeback Kid, was back in the winner's enclosure at Royal Ascot last Saturday. `It's just like the old days,' he exulted. Well, not quite. At Folkestone, Sandown and Chester on occasions in the past, the trainer showed his confidence by taking a chair into the winner's berth as the runners went down to the start, not even bothering to watch the race. But after Nipper Reed had taken the hotly contested Teal and Green Handicap Hurdle, the last race on the card, Rod Simpson was the first man into the enclosure, ready to relish yet another signpost on his roller-coaster career and greeting his winner characteristically with whooping calls worthy of the hunting field.

There was no doubting the common delight (shared by your correspondent, who had taken some of the 16-1 as Nipper Reed was backed down from 20-1 to 12-1). A stream of women rushed up to envelop the trainer's lean figure. Owner Graham Piper beamed his way across the grass with all the obvious pleasure of a man who'd had two grand each way. And if Tony Blair needs another coupling to add to the People's Lottery, the People's Europe and the People's Princess then surely Rob Simpson is the People's Trainer, the Croydon boy who was told after two years in Cyril Mitchell's yard that he'd never make it as a jockey, and who has made it innumerable times since as a trainer, despite being constantly cuffed back to his knees by injury, illness or near bankruptcy.

Now in his eighth yard, Rod is surely Britain's most nomadic horse-handler, many a time having had to sell up house and home (he called one of them Deja Vu because he had seen it all before). He is the little guy who keeps everybody's dreams alive and who has done more than most, too, for racing's charities. I watched the celebrations on Saturday with the canny representative of one of the big bookmakers. `There's no doubt about it: he's got it with the horses,' he said. `And what a great man manager. Just think what he could achieve if he could organise his own life.'

In the up spells, Rod Simpson has won the Cesarewitch with Bajan Sunshine and the Tote Hurdle with Rouyan. He wins races with horses discarded by others as hopeless crocks, having somehow ironed out their kinks. And he trained 38 winners from the 25 horses that the former big-time bond-dealer and gambler Terry Ramsden had with him. …

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