Brandon Simpson has combined training a small stable with his sizable driving talent to become a strong presence at the Meadowlands.
Simpson will steer three of his trainees, in addition to the rest of his catch-drives on Friday night. The 30-year-old Illinois native and son of noted trainer Dirk Simpson manages a stable of 13 horses at the Mark Ford Training Center in Wallkill, NY. After winning three straight titles at Prairie Meadows in Iowa, Simpson moved east--a decision that has paid off. In 2011, he posted a career high $2.2 million season with 168 wins as a driver. He currently ranks tenth in the driver standings.
"First of all, I just like the work and racing,” Simpson said. "I like coming to the barn and training the horses. There are so many top guys at that track and only so many horses to go around. If I have to train some of my own horses to make a living, then that’s OK. I’ve just picked up a couple of new horses in my barn, and I’ll try to race at some of the other tracks during the week when they open up soon.”
Mama Made Me Blue is one of those fresh prospects for Simpson. The Iowa-bred trotter by Weight Lifter (Muscles Yankee) makes his Meadowlands debut from post three in the first race on Friday. Mama Made Me Blue hit the board in 12 of 19 starts last season.
"We bought him for $50,000 privately,” Simpson said. "My dad had trained him in Illinois and found out he was for sale. I drove horses for his latest trainer, Mike Brink, and I also know the people who owned him, the Roland family. His last two lines in Chicago are nice and I trained him up pretty good. He’s missed a month, but he actually has some talent. Most of his wins came in Iowa and the fairs. He had a couple of breaking issues. He would get a bit skittish when horses came along side, but he seems fine now.”
Pay Attention Jack, entered in the third race for fillies and mares, gets some class relief in her return to the Meadowlands for Simpson.
"The first time I raced her she was awesome (closing for second in :27.3),” he said. "Next time she was up in class and was just OK. Last time, I was concerned, so we pulled her blood and she scoped sick. I think she’ll be a lot better on Friday.”
Simpson also expects a good effort from Shesa Bragn Dragon in the eighth race.
"Last year, she was in $15,000 claimers and just got better,” Simpson noted. "Maybe it’s the Dragon Again thing (his progeny have the tendency to get better with age). She’s definitely on her game right now.”
Simpson will steer Proud Moment in the fifth race invitational trot for trainer Robert Krivelin. Proud Moment (post eight) is off to strong start this meet with two wins, a second and a third under his belt.
"That horse is better now at age seven than he’s ever been,” Simpson said. "I drove him last year and now he’s as good as ever. He’s raced great against them, but it’s getting tougher every week. I met his trainer, Robert Krivelin, at Mark Ford’s place.”
Racing fans who look closely at Simpson’s red and gray driving colors will notice they bear the symbol of a cross.
"I’ve been a Christian all my life,” he said. "I believe in God and I wanted people to know that. It’s a big part of our family life. Our denomination is the Evangelical Free Church. I grew up Presbyterian and always went to the church my parents went to. We moved around so much and I wanted to find a church I enjoyed here. When my wife, Abigail and I moved out here, we went to six different churches before we found one we liked.”
Entries For First Round of Horse & Groom Series Close Saturday
The first round of the Horse & Groom Series for conditioned trotters gets underway Thursday, March 1. The entry box closes at 4 p.m. on Saturday. (Meadowlands)