After winning Wednesday’s second race at Tampa Bay Downs aboard 4-year-old gelding Dazzle Me Danny, veteran jockey Ronnie Allen, Jr. stressed the importance of experience when competing against riders roughly half his age.
That know-how proved essential in Allen’s third victory on the 10-race card, aboard the Ian Wilkes-trained 5-year-old mare Island Bound in the ninth race, a $21,200, seven-furlong allowance.
Hemmed in on the rail much of the way with seemingly nowhere to go, Allen bided his time patiently before skimming the fence on the turn inside tiring pace-setter Throttle Up. Unleashed, Island Bound sped through the stretch for a six-length victory, capping a big day for the 2010-11 TBD jockey champ.
Allen also rode 4-year-old filly Leggy Laura to the winner’s circle in the seventh race for owner Ocean Breezes Racing and trainer Gerald Bennett, their second victory with her at the current meeting.
“I think my experience makes up for my age,” said Allen, who probably is as fit and trim as any jockey in the room. “I still feel like I’m in my 20s. I feel healthy and strong and nothing is bothering me.
“I do the same things I always have. I work hard exercising horses in the mornings, I stay fit, eat the right foods and take a lot of vitamins. I usually get on between five and eight horses every morning, and that and riding in the afternoons keeps me fit,” he said.
Allen is the most recent recipient of the Hilton Garden Inn Jockey of the Month award, and judging from his performance Wednesday, it might not be the only time this meeting because trainers notice jockeys who show an ability to ride relatively mistake-free races. Allen, who has achieved a large portion of his success locally with trainer Gerald Bennett, says loving his job makes a huge difference in his success.
“It’s an every-day job, seven days a week, and if you love it you want to keep doing it. I’m loving it and doing well, so I’m going to keep doing it as long as I can. I would like to be leading rider again, but I just want to stay healthy and have a good season. If I’m in the top three, I’ll be happy with that,” Allen said.
Live racing resumes Friday with a 10-race card, with post time for the first race at 12:25 p.m. Tampa Bay Downs is open Thursday and throughout the year for simulcasting, no-limits poker in the Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at the Downs Golf Practice Facility.
Saturday is Skyway Festival Day, with top 3-year-olds vying for the spotlight in the $100,000 Pasco Stakes for 3-year-olds and the $100,000 Gasparilla Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. The Pasco, slated as the 10th race on the card, has drawn 10 runners, including Grade III Grey Stakes winner Prospective out of the barn of trainer Mark Casse and the one-two finishers in the Inaugural Stakes on Dec. 10, Angelofdistinction and Wildcat Creek.
The Gasparilla will be the eighth race and has also attracted 10 entrants. The field includes Jersey Juvenile Fillies winner Salad Girl, trained by Edward Plesa, Jr.