Just the day before horses were to begin shipping into Glenwood Park for the annual running of the VA Fall Races on October 10th, a place Bobby Simmons had been to more times in his life than most people ever will, he left this earth.
Walking up the hill from his cabin at his beloved Sunnybank Farm, just as he had done for over 60+ years, Bobby visited the barn for the very last time.
He had come to Sunnybank when he was a teenager working for Mr. Sam Fred and his well-known daughter, renowned race-horse trainer, Mrs. Dorothy “Dot” Smithwick. On this 1,650 acre farm, Bobby took care of not only champion steeplechase horses such as Neji and Bon Nouvel, but also top show hunters and fox hunters alike. Not to mention managing a coop full of chickens and an immense vegetable garden.
For the many folks who have passed through the stone pillars at Sunnybank Farm, most everyone knew “Bobby.” Through the years he always had a dog by his side and several barn cats. And to each of those people, many award-winning riders in their own right, he taught so many things not just about caring for horses but about farm life in general. On his off time, Bobby enjoyed hunting deer and teaching others how to do it.
In 1999, the Steeplechase Owners & Trainers Association (SOTA) honored Bobby with the Woodville Award for employees in the horse world that are “behind the scenes.” And in 2012, the Virginia Point-to-Point Association (VPPA) honored Bobby again with the Friends of Phillip Hughes Memorial trophy for his lifelong passion of caring for steeplechase horses.
The horse world has lost a one of a kind in Bobby Simmons. May he rest in peace.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, a gathering to honor his life will be held at Sunnybank Farm in the spring or when conditions allow.