05/10/2002 12:00AM

Ex-cop Simms collars hot job


FORT ERIE, Ontario - John Simms is the latest trainer to join Team Schickedanz.

Simms, 53, will saddle Hugs for Terry on Sunday at Fort Erie. The filly will be his first starter for Bruno Schickedanz, who has been the leading owner at this track for the past five years.

Schickedanz has parted company with Layne Giliforte, who had trained his Fort Erie horses during the five-year run. Now, the Schickedanz's horses here are handled by two trainers: Simms and Ray O'Connor.

Schickedanz, who finished fourth in total wins among owners in North America last year, hired O'Connor earlier this season. O'Connor trains 17 Schickedanz horses.

Simms has four horses for his new client. Another 12 are headed his way.

Simms is an ex-cop who took early retirement from the Toronto police force three years ago. He had planned for years to open a public stable.

During his 26 years on the force, Simms also worked at his family farm, which boarded, bred , and broke horses. He obtained a trainer's license six years ago to prepare for his new vocation.

But his introduction, at Woodbine, was far from smooth.

"I was given two stalls, maximum. I didn't have stock," Simms said.

"I couldn't go after more horses," he added, explaining that he had clients that wanted to get horses but that the stall shortage was an obstacle. He managed to win only one race.

Flustered, Simms turned to Fort Erie. The timing was right.

Simms received eight stalls for the 2001 season, and made the most of the opportunity. he finished ninth in the final trainer standings, with 19 wins and a hefty 22 percent win average. And he even won a race at Woodbine.

Schickedanz describes Simms as one of the excellent and passionate horse people who make up his team of five in Canada. Along with Simms and O'Connor at Fort Erie, the owner has horses with Barbara Pirie, Wray Lawrence, and Abraham Katryan at Woodbine. Pirie won 10 races for Schickedanz at Gulfstream during the winter.

O'Connor had an eye-catching debut for Schickedanz in March at Woodbine. He sent out Devinedeputy to an upset against $8,000 claimers, for a win payoff of $62.90.

"All my life I've been with horses," said O'Connor, 54. "As a kid, I worked for Lou Cavalaris Jr. And in his later years, I was his assistant."

Cavalaris was North America's leading trainer in 1966, and is a member of the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame.

Stall-less Alexander running anyway

Finger Lakes-based Bruce Alexander, a high-profile trainer, unsuccessfully applied for stalls at Fort Erie this year. He will continue to ship in and run.

"I was told that they had to look after their own first,' he said. "I didn't race here last year."

Alexander finished fourth in the standings at the recently concluded Tampa Bay meeting with 16 wins from 46 starts, a 35 percent win average. He had only seven stalls there.