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  • Writer's pictureCrawford Racing


Darren "Whackhead" Simpson is capable of lifting the grandstand roof off on his own when one of his horses is involved in a finish and admits to being so emotionally invested that, just like the horse, he needs recuperation time after every race.

TV viewers would have seen and heard him cheering his horse Blizzard (Twice Over) on at Durbanville yesterday before celebrating excitedly with his wife Samantha after the three-year-old colt had just got up to win under Luyolo "Louis" Mxothwa. He said, "This is not about the money, it's about the love of the sport and the horse. Owning a horse means a whole different emotion is involved. It's like going to watch The Stormers but you own the team." He continued, "I love the syndicate idea. It would be great if more people knew about it because if it is not about financial gain it doesn't matter if you own even just 1%, you can still say 'That is my horse.'" Darren said the anticipation would start running wild from the time, two weeks before the race, trainer Brett Crawford would tell him his horse was running. He added, "By the time the race is finished my nerves are shot!" So buying more horses is not on the agenda at present as he said he would need "three months" to recover from yesterday's win. He is happy with the size of his "team" for the time being.

He has high hopes for Blizzard and revealed, "Justin Snaith told me the horse we beat was by Silvano, which is just incredible, and he then told me the Ruperts owned him and he cost R3 million. Blizzard cost just R180,000 so it could be another Kommetdieding story. I believe he is going to win the Met ... that could be coming from my naive understanding of the sport but I dream big. If you are in football you want to win the world cup and I am seeing him winning the Met. It is an underdog story and would be great for the sport."

He has high praise for Brett Crawford and said, "It is not just pay the money and see what happens, he looks after you every step of the way. There is a proper system in place, it runs like a professional sports team. I get incredible progress reports all the time, and photos and videos and it could be a random one at 6 a.m saying 'Here is blizzard enjoying himself on the beach this morning.' It is a slick operation. Louis has ridden Blizzard in every race and I have now got to know Louis on a personal level. He comes into the box afterwards and that is what is so great ... everybody who plays a role in the horse is there and you feel like a part of the whole system. That is what makes it so personal and so inviting to be in the sport. You can think it is elitist and it is but it isn't ... it is a family environment." The Simpsons have a special bond with their horse and would like to have him in their backyard with their two dogs as a third pet. However, they respect his role as a highly revved racehorse and don't get too close to him at the yard.

They and Crawford have noticed Blizzard seeming to respond upon hearing his name as he always looks at them when they encourage him from the side of the parade ring. Darren said, "There is also the cute story of when I was talking about his first win on the radio and we then played the commentary. The radio was on at the yard and so this loud commentary was being broadcast and he popped his head out of his box to look ... he was the only one who popped his head out ... amazing!" Darren has always had a love of horseracing, like many of his age from the Durban area. He grew up in Pinetown in the 1980s and used to go to the Tote with his Dad and followed racing avidly on the radio and in the newspaper. He used to spend his pocket money on bets.

He recalled, "I won my first PA at the age of seven and it paid R6.50!" However, he added, "I am terrible at betting and anything I put my money on is guaranteed to lose."

Hence he does not even back Blizzard but what he lacks in financial investment he makes up for in emotional investment. He has always wanted to own a horse and in fact in an elaborate scam about twelve years ago was sold two horses he paid for but in reality they did not exist. He was speaking about this incident on the radio recently and Crawford and some of his staff heard it and contacted him offering him the chance of owning a real horse. Brett gave him the option of three horses. He took a while to decide and on advice from Brett opted for Blizzard and Greenlightforgo (Gimmethegreenlight). However, he did not get his colours organised in time so Blizzard runs in the silks of Coolmore staff member Justin Carey, the son of well known SA industry couple Craig and Amanda Carey. There are no guarantees in racing and Greenlightforgo is on his way to the Crawford satellite yard after finishing downfield in both starts to date. Darren said he might do one of his famous prank calls on a racing industry-man one of these days. Gary Player could be a candidate.

Darren admitted to being confused by a genuine call he received from the legendary golfer one day and thought he was being pranked himself. He said, "He phoned me out of the blue without introducing himself and started talking about the prank call of mine he had enjoyed so much and was laughing his head off. I asked who this was and he said 'Gary Player' and I said 'Yes sure' and as I clearly didn't believe him he reiterated it was him and that he was phoning from the Masters. Then I knew it must be a prank call because why would Gary Player phone me from the Masters? But in fact it was him."

Player was famously a victim of a Long John Berkes prank call. Interestingly, Darren said nobody influenced his prank call style. He said, "We grew up in that era of Telkom landlines and used to come back from school and do prank calls such as telling people 'This is Simba and the person who can do the loudest roar will win a free box of chips"

He certainly looks like being a good ambassador for racing and the passion has passed on to his boys Nate and Cruz. Nate is in the same school class as Matthew Bass, son of Mark and grandson of the legendary trainer Mike Bass, and they have a rivalry going about their respective horses. He said, "So the new market is being blooded for about 15 years time!"

His only regret is his Dad, who passed away about 14 years ago, is not here to watch Blizzard. He concluded, "He would have thought it was so great his son owned a racehorse but I think he is witnessing it in a spiritual way and is sitting behind Louis in the saddle. I think that is why Blizzard is doing so well!"


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