Former U.S. Army Officer Mark Simms Jr. recorded his first win as a trainer beneath the historic Twin Spires of Churchill Downs on Saturday evening with 3-year-old Kaziranga.
Simms, a former assistant to trainer Dale Romans, began his training career in 2017 and has a small stable based at Trackside Louisville, Churchill Downs’ training facility located approximately three miles from the historic Louisville racetrack. A native of North Dakota, Simms spent a majority of his childhood and college career in Virginia prior to joining the Army in 2011.
“Dreams do come true,” Simms said. “Just trust the process, pray and keep grinding. It was an awesome night winning this race at Churchill in front of so much of my family and friends. It means the world to have this much support for our stable. I was actually feeling under the weather most of the night but I felt so much better after the win.”
Kaziranga was a former $50,000 claim who was transferred to Simms’ care in late April. The gelding bested a field of eight competitors in a conditioned starter allowance race by 1 ¾ lengths as the 5-2 favorite.
Simms began his career in the Army as a Brigade Assistant Intelligence Operations Officer and traveled to Korea for a year. While in Korea he would go to the racetrack with local soldiers. Simms would pick out the horses to bet and the soldiers would help translate the program.
In 2013, Simms was deployed to Afghanistan and served as an Intelligence Officer in the 3rd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division. After returning to Kentucky in 2014, Simms began working at GE and helping Romans in the mornings at Churchill Downs.
“Dale and his assistant, Baldemar (Bahena), have taught me so much about horse racing.” Simms said. “They have been extremely supportive of my career.”