Racing: Simpson driven towards despair

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A DAY of apparently bottomless banality in one of racing's sleepy late summer phases at Brighton yesterday yielded as many themes and micro-dramas as a whole week at Royal Ascot. Rod Simpson spoke of abandoning his struggle to survive as a trainer, Michael Roberts applied the brakes in his rush to be champion jockey and wins for the families Kelleway and Charles-Jones left you humbled in the light of fortitude.

The sport's up and down escalators seem to be humming with particular endeavour just now and while Gareth and Jessica Charles- Jones were greeting their first win on the Flat, Simpson, for whom the adjective hearty was created, was revealing his intention to apply for jobs abroad or in a political capacity within the industry.

Simpson has a 30-box yard near Swindon but only 10 of those stalls are occupied, and as he said: 'that doesn't mean the landlord will take a third of the rent.

'I can't keep banging my head against this brick wall,' he added as he described how two waves of viral illness have exacerbated the severe effects of recession. Training posts in the Middle East, in particular, are beginning to look mighty attractive to such beleaguered horse addicts.

If Simpson goes, at least one colour will drain from the spectrum of tones the sport is able to assemble, and as York's Ebor meeting demonstrated, that show of light would do justice to a Mardi Gras when the formula is right. For Charles-Jones and his wife the formula has been horribly, unceasingly wrong, and that fact was not lost on the stream of racegoers who queued to congratulate them after their Shirl had won the Pepper Pot Selling Handicap at 33-1.

Jessica Charles-Jones is in a wheelchair from a riding accident at Southwell. While she and her husband, Gareth, were adjusting to that icy reality, he was diagnosed as having lymphatic cancer, and even now is awaiting a double hip replacement to combat bone cancer in his joints. With all this to accommodate, the two still pressed on with their plans to start training, and have managed to assemble 12 horses at Letcombe Regis near Wantage.

Set against that kind of indomitability, the unperishable optimism of the Kelleways looks unremarkable. After John Rose had won the first race yesterday, Paul Kelleway, the trainer, was hoping for 'a good write-up and a nice picture' so he could fax it to Dick Duchossois, owner of Arlington Park racecourse in Chicago. Incredible though it may sound, John Rose is second reserve for the Arlington Million there on Saturday week.

Would you believe, also, that this was Gay Kellaway's first win as a jockey since Royal Ascot in 1987? A fitting contrast was provided here to the dilemma of Michael Roberts, a furlong clear of Pat Eddery in the jockeys' championship but currently paring down his list of engagements to help him recover from a back injury. Roberts had one ride yesterday and has just two today. Confidence must be a factor.

As it must in the decision of David Loder, Geoff Wragg's assistant, to set up as a trainer at Sefton Lodge stables in Newmarket. An announcement is expected this week to the effect that Loder, whose family own Marling and her dam, Marwell, will take over Henry Cecil's auxiliary yard at the beginning of next season (with Maktoum support, it is widely believed).

All of which is motorways and mountains apart from Gareth Charles-Jones's attempts to succeed in his perilous new profession (he began as a jump jockey). What surprised him less yesterday than Shirl's win was the fact that Daniel Wright, the apprentice jockey, had declined to take a taxi to the course when his car broke down, thus surrendering the ride to Patrick McCabe.

It is a safe bet that in the same position Charles-Jones would have run the rest of the way, as it is that anybody who had put in a bid for Shirl (this was a selling race) would now be hanging upside down off the end of the pier. Deservedly so.

(Photograph omitted)