09/17/2010 12:54PM

Simard's mid-career move a success

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FORT ERIE, Ontario – Jockey Real Simard started his 2010 racing season at Fort Erie wondering how things would work out, since it was his first venture outside Western Canada.

Simard, 45, is a native of northern Alberta and had won over 2,000 races since the mid-80s, primarily at Northlands Park in Edmonton and Stampede Park in Calgary.

“I decided it was time for a change,” said Simard, “and now that Stampede Park in Calgary is closed, it was the proper time to assess my future.

“I do feel that I have some more good years in me yet, so after pondering the move, I packed my bags and headed east.”

It has turned out to be a good move for Simard, who last week rode four winners and continued to solidify his hold on second place in the jockey standings with 45 wins. Krista Carignan is the leader, with 67 wins.

Simard hooked up with agent Rocco LaTorre on arrival and began to hone his skills on the Fort’s one-mile dirt surface.

“This may be hard to believe,” said Simard, “but Assiniboia Downs was the biggest oval I had ridden on in my career. Stampede, Northlands and Hastings are all bullrings.

“It is a different game riding on a one-mile track. On a bullring you have to be aggressive from the break, and there is plenty of bumping on the turns as riders work hard to get good position. Here at the Fort, I think I was bumped only a couple of times in the first month. It was quite a difference!

“I’ve learned to relax runners and to understand that there is plenty of time to make your move. A bullring stretch does not give you much time to make up ground.”

Simard began on the slow side while building friendships and trust.

“It is always tough to break in, but Rocco got me going and Nick Gonzalez put me aboard some of his runners,” said Simard.

“I am very happy with the progress made since the meet began and my confidence factor has never been higher.”

Adding to his success was a recent ride over Woodbine’s E.P. Taylor turf course where Simard took a Reade Baker-trained runner to the winner’s circle. “I just followed Reade’s instructions and it worked out great,” said Simard. “I really appreciated the fact that he had the confidence in me. It was an experience I will certainly remember and I am looking forward to riding a few more at Woodbine this fall.”Asked about his favorite riding memory, Simard did not hesitate in his response.

“In 1998 I rode trainer Roger Attfield’s A Fleets Dancer to three derby wins, one in Manitoba and two in Alberta, including the Canadian Derby at Northlands Park. That was special.”

Simard is already looking forward to next season.

“This year was a learning experience and very satisfying,” said Simard. ” I love the track, the town, the people and the surroundings, and certainly intend to be back.”

◗ The race office has advised that Sept 28 will be the final day of racing on the turf this meet.