As the season’s stake racing winds down, horse racing fans still have the opportunity to watch talented young horses compete in the John Simpson Memorial races on October 21 and 22 and October 27 and 28, 2021 at Harrah’s Philadelphia. Three year olds fillies go first with trotters and pacers on October 21st and three year old pacing and trotting colts on Friday, October 22nd. Two year olds follow the next week with colts on October 27 and fillies on the 28th . According to Joe Auger, racing secretary at Harrah’s, “the Simpson races are important races in Pennsylvania that feature young horses with estimated purses of $75,000.”

The John Simpson stakes, originally known as the Hanover-Hempt Stakes ,named after two of Pennsylvania’s largest standardbred farms at that time, were first held in 1960 at the Carlisle Fair, and were created for two and three year old horses of each gender and gait. In 1993, the races were
renamed the John Simpson Stakes in honor of John Simpson, Sr., chairman of the board of Hanover Shoe Farms.

The legendary driver, John Simpson, Sr. won almost $5 million dollars in purses during his driving career and set over 15 world records. He won all six Triple Crown races for both gaits and won the Hambletonian twice and the Little Brown Jug three times. His success and talent caught the attention of Lawrence Sheppard, president of Hanover Shoe Farms, who, in 1957, offered Simpson the lucrative position as general manager of the racing and breeding divisions of the farm. The goal was to acquire top stallions, and Simpson was instrumental in persuading Sheppard to buy the world champion pacer and stallion, Adios, who became a dominant sire and one of the world’s greatest and most important standardbred stallions. The price was steep at $500,000 and Hanover retained 2/3 interest, but they sold the remaining 1/3 to Max Hempt of Hempt Farms in Pennsylvania.

When Sheppard’s health began to decline in 1964, Simpson moved to Hanover, PA to help Sheppard with the daily responsibilities of the farm. The death of Sheppard in 1968 left Simpson as president and general manager of Hanover Shoe Farms, and his goal was to acquire and maintain the best broodmare band in the world. As pointed out by Moira Fanning, COO of The Hambletonian Society, Inc. which services the John Simpson Memorial races, “Hanover Shoe Farms is arguably the largest and most successful standardbred farm in the world and has been for over fifty years. It’s very rare for a farm to be at the top of the game for so long, but they had the vision and the dedication to be the best. Hanover wanted to sponsor and own a stakes race, and as a nod to their legacy, they named each division of the John Simpson Memorial after one of their champion stallions or broodmares like the Ayers, the Albatross, and the Bret Hanover. These races showcase the next generation and possible future
champions, and Pennsylvania does a good job offering affordable stakes.”

For the next two weeks at Harrah’s, harness fans can watch and wager on horses from Pennsylvania and neighboring states compete in the John Simpson Memorial races, sponsored by The Pennsylvania Harness Horsemen’s Association and Harrah’s Philadelphia. Billed as one of the fastest 5/8 mile tracks in the country, horses race on a track built over a specially constructed bridge jutting over the Delaware River. Nominations include horses trained by leading trainers including Ron Burke, Gilbert Garcia Owen, and Julie Miller, and driven by leading drivers Tim Tetrick, George Napolitano, Jr., and Todd McCarthy.

Don’t miss the exciting live stakes competition!

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