07/25/2007 12:00AM

Onetime rivals now partners


BOSSIER CITY, La. - With more than 50 years of riding experience between them, Don Simington and his agent, Ronald Ardoin, bring a lot to the table. Their extensive resumes have paid off handsomely for the former riding rivals since they began to work together a month into the current season.

"It has been a wonderful run," said Ardoin, the all-time leading rider at Louisiana Downs. "Things have really taken off."

Indeed. When Ardoin took Simington's book in late May, Simington was languishing, not even on the first page of the leader board at an oval where he has ridden for more than 20 years.

"I knew I had to make a change," Simington said. "It was something I had thought about quite a bit back in the spring. Ronald just has so many contacts, I knew it would work out great."

The seven weeks since have been a whirlwind, even for a veteran like Simington. He is tied for third in the standings with 38 victories after essentially spotting his fellow riders four weeks worth of mounts to begin the meeting. That figure is only four victories shy of the 44-year-old Simington's total here for all of last year. Included in Simington's hot streak is a five-bagger and victories in six-figure stakes each of the last two weekends. The win total would likely have been higher had Simington not missed last Thursday and Friday to be with his critically ill father, who died last Friday.

"It was difficult," Simington said. "No matter how much you expect it to happen, it is tough to deal with."

"We took off five winners on those two days," said Ardoin, 50, who conducts his agent duties with the same dogged determination that produced more than 5,000 winners as a rider. "It was one of those things you can't control. Some things are more important than winning races."

A new agent is not the only change Simington plans on making. For the last several years, he has wintered at Sam Houston Park, but this year his schedule will be different.

"I'm either going to Delta or Oaklawn or both," said Simington. "I've done pretty well over at Houston over the years, but you have to win so many races over there, with the purses as they are, to do any good. That, and after establishing contacts over here during the summer, you essentially have to start all over again the next year. You have to go where your trainers go."