09/25/2008 11:00PM

At 45, Simington's riding his best ever


Jockey Don Simington made a key career decision last year, and he has reaped the benefits all meet at Louisiana Downs. With just three weeks left in the season, he is closing in on his first local riding title with a 19-win lead in the standings through Thursday.

Simington said last spring he decided to ride year round in Louisiana, rather than spend some of his time in Texas, where he is a multiple title winner at Sam Houston Race Park. So when Louisiana Downs ended, he moved his tack to Delta Downs in Vinton, La. He will do the same thing again this year, following the close of Louisiana Downs on Oct. 18.

"The last few years that I did go to Houston, it was hard to reestablish business there then come back here and get reestablished," said Simington, who found himself riding for two completely different sets of horsemen. "Now it makes sense to stay in Louisiana. It was a move I had to make. So many people I ride for are now going to Delta."

One of Simington's strongest supporters is Jerry Cart, the third-leading trainer at Louisiana Downs who also races at the slots-rich Delta. Simington has ridden for Cart for 20 years, but has gotten on much more of his stock over the past couple of seasons.

"I usually ride two or three different jockeys, but I've just kind of gotten on real good with Donny, and I just tried to stick with him," said Cart. "He just gives you 100 percent every time."

Simington, 45, is in the midst of the best year of his career. He had won 146 races in 2008 through Thursday, and his mount earnings of $2,793,904 are a personal best. At the current meet, Simington had gone 88 for 487, and in addition to leading all riders in wins, led the standings in mount earnings, with $1,538,382.

"This whole year has just been something else," said Simington, whose richest win came in February at Delta, in the $200,000 Premier Night Championship.

Simington, who has won a Red River Downs, or fall, meet title at Louisiana Downs, said an overall title in Bossier City would be of particular significance to him since he has ridden at the track for 23 years.

"It would be so neat after all these years riding here," he said. "It's never been an easy meet. There's always a lot of good riders. To see your name in the same category with a lot of these guys that have won the title, that would be special. It's a pretty good list."

Past title winners Simington has ridden against include Ronald Ardoin, a career winner of more than 5,000 races who is now Simington's agent; Calvin Borel, who won the Kentucky Derby in 2007 with Street Sense; and noted journeymen Larry Snyder and Don Howard.

Simington, a native of Wisconsin, grew up in Arizona and came to Bossier City from Turf Paradise, where he met his wife, Deianna, the daughter of Louisiana Downs-based trainer Ray Spencer. He began race riding at Sunland Park in New Mexico in 1984, and has since compiled a record of 2,410 career wins and $28 million in mount earnings.

Farasino seeks sixth win at meet

No horse has won more races at the Louisiana Downs meet than Farasino. She has gone 5 for 5 this season, and will look to add to that record on Sunday in the fourth race. Farasino will go favored in a $5,000 starter allowance for fillies and mares. It will be run at one mile and 70 yards, a distance over which she has won her last two starts.

Farasino's wins this meet have come around both one turn and two, by a combined margin of 23 1/2 lengths. She is a 4-year-old filly by Sefapiano who races for Jan Haynes.

"We claimed her for $7,500 at Oaklawn, and she's been awesome here this meet," said Jorge Lara, the leading trainer at Louisiana Downs. "She's been great."

Hawaiian Choice comes in unbeaten

Also on the card, the undefeated Hawaiian Choice, who has won his three outs by a combined margin of 25 1/2 lengths, will start from the rail in the featured eighth race. Others in the field include Sprightly Star, who is a half-brother to Star Production, the winner of the Louisiana Breeders' Derby and Prelude Breeders' Cup this meet at Louisiana Downs.

* The Breeders Sales Co. of Louisiana has cataloged 313 yearlings to its annual yearling sale, which will be held on Monday at the Ike Hamilton Expo Center in West Monroe, La. The auction is scheduled to start at 10 a.m.