Rodders of Arabia, by Rod Simpson

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The Independent Culture

After 38 years of trying, Sir Michael Stoute landed his first Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe last Sunday. Rod Simpson, at 65 the same age as Stoute and currently training in Abu Dhabi, is unlikely to emulate that feat, but in the words of the former champion jump jockey John Francome, he's "a proper horseman, a great trainer and on a different path he could have been a Sir Michael Stoute".

Instead, the path Rodders, originally from Croydon, followed involved more twists and turns than the Derby course, as he pinballed around from one stable to another, from the lows of penury and driving a truck at Heathrow to the highs of a winner at last year's Dubai World Cup.

As he is the first to admit in this very funny if at times hair-raising autobiography, his cause has not always been helped by his irreverent approach and lack of business acumen. His choice of owners has sometimes been unfortunate; the book opens in 1999 as his premises are raided by a Customs & Excise hit squad searching for cocaine worth millions of pounds allegedly secreted there by his patron of the time (who was jailed for 14 years).

His association with legendary punter Terry Ramsden also ended in tears, but he picked himself up, dusted down his usually flamboyant clothes and carried on with a smile on his face.

There are fewer laughs in Frankincense and More (Racing Post, £18.99), Robin Oakley's biography of taciturn trainer Barry Hills, but it's an absorbing account of another self-made man who produced over 3,000 winners, and has some talented sons to continue the dynasty.

Two very different personalities, Hills and Simpson are united in a deep love of horses and of their uncertain trade; while Hills may on paper be by far the more successful, one suspects that Rodders has had more fun.

Published in hardback by Racing Post, £18.99