Racing identity George Simon admits it is a very long time since he has felt as excited about calling at a midweek trial day as he did on the morning of the 33-heat meeting at Te Rapa last Tuesday. It was the first time since the Covid-19 enforced lockdown of New Zealand that Simon had had the opportunity to return to his first love and passion of calling races and he was eager to get back to business.
“It was a re-baptism of fire with 33 heats and I loved every minute of it,” Simon said. “I think the lockdown gave me the chance to revitalise as you tend to be busy and on autopilot a lot of the time. “It made me realise just how much I love what I do and how much enjoyment it gives me. “You can take things for granted at times and you don’t know how much you miss it until you can’t do it anymore.”
When Simon got the call from new Waikato Racing Club CEO Andrew “Butch” Castles that there would be over 290 horses going around at the meeting his first thought was to make sure he got things right on the day. “When Butch told me the numbers, I don’t think I have been as excited about a trial meeting for quite some time,” he said.
“Normally you have all sorts of information about horses floating around in your head but during the lockdown I had the chance to unwind and forget about that side of things. “I’ve never really looked at the trial fields that in-depth or given them much thought but I think I knew more about those trial runners on Tuesday than I ever have. “Because I had missed it so much you just wanted to get back into the swing of things so the enthusiasm was definitely there.”
Simon will call trial meetings at Ellerslie and Cambridge (jumping) this coming week before the first racemeeting after lockdown gets underway at Pukekohe on Saturday. “I said to my wife last night that I will finally be back working at a proper racemeeting in a week and I’m really excited about it,” he said. “You do tend to go on autopilot a little but I’m definitely out of that mode now and really looking forward to catching up with people I haven’t seen in what seems like a very long time.”
While he hasn’t been calling races, Simon and wife Maryanne have been kept busy on their Mana Park property in Cambridge with 40 horses to tend to, including the four mares that comprise their burgeoning broodmare band. “The lockdown did provide us with the opportunity to spend some quality time on the farm and get a lot of things done that may have been on hold for a while,” he said. “It certainly has kept us busy and with the lockdown meaning no-one could come on the property it was just the two of us which kept us pretty busy.
“We have about 40 horses with us at the moment including our own four broodmares along with yearlings for mostly overseas clients and some horses spelling as well. “We made the decision about two or three years ago to concentrate on breeding our own mares and have some fun with that. “We will either sell or race the progeny ourselves but the bottom line is that we love our horses and the joy that they bring us. “We are selling yearlings, breeding from our own mares and racing about five or six as well so we are pretty heavily invested in the industry. “Mind you I did say to a couple of mates the other day that there are two of us in this business and I’m bloody glad that she (Maryanne) knows what she is doing.”