Sherwood, Simon

photo courtesy John Griffiths

When Simon and his brother Oliver were small, Oliver playfully picked up a shotgun and, believing it to be empty, fired it at Simon.
Bad move.
The gun was loaded. The bullet missed Simon by a hair's breadth.

Simon Edward Harlakanden Sherwood (commonly known as Sharkey) was born on 19 March, 1958 and, like his older brother, Oliver, was heavily influenced by his parents, both successful point-to-point riders.

Simon rode for just eight seasons, yet amassed a total of 350 winners.
He had a quite, nicely balanced style: a very laid back way of riding which somehow concealed an impressive capacity to think under pressure.

When John Francome retired in November 1985, Fred Winter told him that it would a very long time to replace him.
In fact, it took less than a week before Simon found himself as number one jockey for the stable.

He will forever be associated with the legendary grey, Desert Orchid, on whom he won ten times. 

A jockey needs luck in racing: Simon's luck was certainly in on Boxing Day, 1986, when David Elsworth's stable jockey Colin Brown was given the choice of two runners to ride in the King George at Kempton.
Brown picked the second favourite, Combs Ditch, leaving Simon to ride the other - Desert Orchid!
That Christmas Eve, it started raining and continued doing so throughout Christmas Day. The result was that the going on Boxing Day was soggy and stamina-sapping making Desert Orchid a certainty.
The trainer, David Elsworth, assured Simon in the paddock that Colin had chosen the wrong one, and ordered Simon to ride Desert Orchid as if he would stay every yard.

Simon found that the grey was absolutely swinging over the fences so he took the lead early on, gave him a breather, then kicked on again to win by 15 lengths from Door Latch.

Much to the chagrin of Colin Brown, Simon kept the ride, partnering Desert Orchid to a total of nine wins out of ten. They were beaten once together, when Desert Orchid uncharacteristically fell at Aintree.


Major races won : Fighting Fifth Hurdle 88 (Floyd), Tingle Creek Chase 88 (Desert Orchid), King George VI Chase 86 (Desert Orchid), 88 (Desert Orchid), Gainsborough Chase 89 (Desert Orchid), Game Spirit Chase 89 (Mr Key), Chivas Regal Cup Chase 88 (Desert Orchid), Topham Chase 89 (Villierstown), Scottish Champion Hurdle 89 (Aldino), Whitbread Gold Cup 86 (Plundering), 88 (Desert Orchid)

Festival wins : Sun Alliance Novices Hurdle 87 (The West Awake), 88 (Rebel Song), Queen Mother Chase 89 (Barnbrook Again), Sun Alliance Chase 88 (The West Awake), Kim Muir Memorial Chase 85 (Glyde Court), Cheltenham Gold Cup 89 (Desert Orchid), Cathcart Case Challenge Cup 86 (Half Free)

Grand National record : Four rides 1985 Musso (pulled up 19th), 1986 Plundering (fell 8th), 1988 Border Burg (pulled up 29th), 1989 The Thinker (3rd)

Simon also won the 1989 John Hughes on Villierstown in 1989 and was second in the same race in 1988 on Pan Arctic. Rode in the 1984 Foxhunters', finishing seventh. 

He retired on the spur of the moment after riding a winner for his brother Oliver at Haydock in May 1989. 'He admitted that 'a little bell had been ringing in my mind saying enough is enough.'

On his retirement from the saddle, Simon took out a trainer's licence and claimed a major success when winning the Triumph Hurdle in 1992 with Duke of Monmouth.

A good start, but he couldn't have foreseen the future.

He had invested £800,000 in Summerdown Stables, a complex which he'd had built at East Iisley.
Then a recession took hold plus the stable was hit by a virus which lasted for over two years.

With a wife and two children to support and no regular income, Simon cut his losses. In 1996 he sold Summerdown Stables to Hughie Morrison and swapped his house for Morrison's Lambourn house. He then took his 25 horses to join forces with his brother, Oliver, to make up a 100-strong stable.

From the Times, Jan 2006

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