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date: 05 April 2020

Simms, Willie locked

(16 Jan. 1870–26 Feb. 1927),
  • Steven P. Savage


jockey and trainer, was born William Simms in Augusta, Georgia, the son of former slaves, whose names are unknown. Enticed by racing silks as a boy, he ran away from home to become a jockey. He worked for C. H. Pettingill's stable in New York for two years, until the trainer Con Leighton “discovered” him riding in Clifton, New Jersey, in 1887 or 1888.

For Simms's first important race, Leighton assigned him to ride the two-year-old Banquet, a 20-1 underdog, in the 1889 Expectation Stakes. Banquet defeated both the favorite, Bellisarius, ridden by Edward “Snapper” Garrison, and Banquet's preferred stablemate, Chaos. Later, at Monmouth Park in New Jersey, Simms guided Chaos, now a 30-1 underdog, to victory over favored Banquet. Freelancing in 1891 Simms enjoyed great success at Saratoga. In 1892P.-J. Dwyer hired Simms who won the Champion Stakes aboard Lamplighter After ...

A version of this article originally appeared in African American National Biography.

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