09/23/2011 12:10PM

Fort Erie: Lifetime on track hasn't dimmed Simon's enjoyment

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FORT ERIE, Ontario – Fort Erie-based Lynn Simon grew up the daughter of a trainer and has been training Thoroughbreds for 20 years, and says she still loves what she does.

“I grew up at the racetrack with my mother watching over me,” said Simon, 49. “She didn’t approve of the backstretch environment for a young girl, but gave in since I loved it so much and because my father, who has trained horses since his teenage years, was always nearby.”

In her early teens, Simon was at the barn every weekend and during school vacations.

“I was the low man on the totem pole in those days, doing all the jobs nobody else wanted to do,” she said. “My summer vacations were working ones as I began to learn the business from the ground up.”

Simon has averaged a 12 percent win rate over the years, with 161 wins from1,257 runners.

“It has been a great life,” said Simon, “but the hours are long. These days, with the purses being cut, many trainers, myself included, are finding it a struggle to keep our heads above water.”

Simon admits to being meticulous when it comes to caring for her horses and is still hands-on with the 10 runners currently in her barn.

Simon placed Beau Gentleman as one of the favorites among the horses she has trained.

“He was no champion, just an average runner, but he had a wonderful personality and was pleasure to be around, just a happy horse,” said Simon, who won four races with Beau Gentleman through 2000 and 2001.

Simon also has some wonderful memories of Soon to be Single.

“She came into my barn in 2003, an $18,000 claimer and a nonwinner of three races lifetime,” said the trainer. “We entered her on the Fort Erie turf for $25,000 claiming and she won by nine lengths. Francine Villeneuve was aboard.”

Following that impressive win, Simon and owner Come by Chance Stable decided that Soon to Be Single needed to leave the claiming ranks.

“She went on to win two more races that season,” said Simon, “all on the turf, including the $90,000 Miss Moneypenny Stakes. While in my barn she ran six times on grass, winning four.”

Simon has had up to 30 horses in her barn over the years, but now prefers to stay with a smaller stable. Her father has continued to play a part over the years in both racing and breeding, and today, for the most part, it is a family affair.

“We have not been as active as other years,” said the trainer, “but you have to do with what you have. I try and keep runners that are low maintenance, since these days you have to work from an economic viewpoint.”

At present, a barn favorite is Northoffifty, a 6-year-old gelding with an affinity for the grass.

“I have decided to run him only on the turf,” said Simon, “that is where he belongs.”

“Over the years I have loved the English way of training and running their horses on grass. It is a relaxed atmosphere. If I had the choice, most of my horses would be turf runners. I just love to train and run on the grass.”

◗ Debbie Gregg, a well-liked food services employee at the Fort, died suddenly last Tuesday.