sign of the times

By Dick Jerardi

The sign in front of the wire fence reads: “No houses here thanks to Pennsylvania Horse Breeders’ Fund.”

courtesy of Kate DeMasi

Richard Simoff put the sign in front of a recently-acquired 10 acres at his Twin Ponds Farm, which is south of Oxford, Pa., not far from the Maryland border.

“I have 35 acres; I’ve been here for 30 years,” Simoff said. “About five years ago, a real estate agent called me and said, ‘there’s 10 acres bordering your fence and they are going to put three houses there.’ I cashed in the IRA, and put the down payment on the land.”

So, he now has 45 acres and he saved some of Pennsylvania’s disappearing open space.
“This is preserving land,” Simoff said. “It’s doing a lot of good so I put the sign out.”

Simoff, like so many in the commonwealth’s horse business, is frustrated by the numerous false misconceptions that are making the rounds in the state legislature. He notes that the Pennsylvania horse racing industry is anything but rich Arab sheiks coming to Pennsylvania to take all of the money from the Pennsylvania Derby while everybody else is left behind. It is actually quite a huge business with money flowing through it that creates thousands of jobs.

“I have a half-mile track,” Simoff said. “I used to run horses off the farm… Now I mostly break horses, maybe 100 yearlings a year, 2-year-olds. And then I had some broodmares that I left turned out. I leave them out 24 hours a day and bring them in when they foal. If you have the land, it doesn’t cost as much. You just feed them twice a day.”

Simoff thinks he is going to get almost $100,000 in breeder’s awards this year.

“It’s not my bread and butter, but it helps,” he said.

He had one filly win in September at Parx when the purse was $70,000. She was PA-sired “so it was 40 percent to me, so my check from one race was like $23,000.”

He is not touting himself as a breeding genius. He knows better.

“A lot of this is just plain, dumb luck,” he said.

You just hope the horse you breed gets with the right people who know what they are doing and you can get some of that breeding bonus money on the back end. Simoff will not sell to just anybody. He really wants to sell to smart people who plan to race in Pennsylvania.

“There’s a big difference in trainers,” Simoff said.

Simoff bred the good three-year-old filly Smokinpaddylassie, who is trained at Parx by Eddie Coletti, Jr., and owned by newcomer Ed Bruzek.

He bought Smokinpaddylassie’s dam in foal at Keeneland for $6,200. He ended up selling another foal before Smokinpaddylassie won a stake at Laurel in March. And then the mare sadly died not long after.

“That’s what happens,” Simoff said, “It was a triple whammy. At least I got some breeder’s awards. I only get 20 percent because they were sired out-of-state.”

Regardless of the individual success or failures, it’s people like Richard Simoff who make the business “go” in Pennsylvania. He promotes open space with his farm. He helps young horses get ready for training. He breeds horses. He sells horses. And he proudly placed a sign on his fence that should serve as a reminder for everybody.

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