Modest Jamaican jockey much acclaimed

A piece of Caribbean racing royalty will be spending the summer at Winnipeg’s Assiniboia Downs.

Trevor (Slicer) Simpson is the second-winningest jockey in Caribbean racing history, he has won five rider titles at Jamaica’s Caymanas Park, and he has been honoured as a distinguished citizen of his native country.

The 43-year-old arrived in Winnipeg earlier this month, and he already has his first victory under his belt. More are sure to follow.

“I’ve watched some of the best of the best horses and jockeys, and this guy’s as good as what I’ve seen out there,” his agent, Mark (Lucky) Drabing, said Thursday.

Simpson won the jockey crown at Caymanas in 1989 and 1992, so he decided to give the U.S. a shot. He spent most of his time riding in the Philadelphia area between 1993 and 2001, and then he returned to Jamaica to tear up the track where he got his start.

In 2002 he recorded a Caymanas record 172 victories in a whopping 586 mounts and followed that up with titles in 2003 and 2004 as well. He was awarded Jamaica’s Order of Distinction in 2004 for his distinguished career and character.

“His Order of Distinction award, that’s not just for riding. That’s for good citizenship,” Drabing said. “Several of the riders have come up to me here, and he’s their mentor because he teaches them, treats them with respect. He’s very modest. He really takes care of the guys around here.”

Simpson got into racing innocently enough. “When I used to go to school I used to hear the racing commentators on the radio, and that got me interested,” he said. A friend of his went to the track, so he tagged along.

Before long he was riding horses after school and on weekends. He had the perfect body for a jockey, and the rest is history. His son, Tadious, is also a jockey.

Simpson arrived in Winnipeg on the heels of what he calls one of the greatest victories of his 26-year career. He rode She’s Traditional, a 99-to-1 long shot, to victory in the 38th running of the 1000 Guineas stakes race at Caymanas on April 7.

“That’s the big race,” Simpson said.

He hopes to win a few in Winnipeg, too.

“I’ve been here, and the trainers are very cool. We get along very well. They put me on horses. I like the track. It’s a nice track,” he said.

“They like my riding so far, and hopefully I’ll be able to do a little better than what I do for the first time.”

There’s his modesty coming through again. In seven starts at the Downs he has a victory, a runner-up showing and three third-place finishes.

“I’ve had several trainers come up and say, ‘I’m very interested in your man, because he can ride,’ ” Drabing said. “It’s a late start, but hopefully we’ll catch up and give these guys a run for their money.”

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