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May 01, 2019

ALLEN EARNS JOCKEY OF MONTH HONOR AFTER FACING PERSONAL DEMONS

by Mike Henry
Popular four-time Tampa Bay Downs champion jockey Ronnie Allen, Jr., is battling his addiction, day by day, with strong support from family, friends and community and his own inner strength.

Ronnie Allen, Jr., believes his experience and physical condition, honed during more than three decades of race-riding, will help him continue to win races for the next several years.

“I feel good. I feel strong,” said Allen, who turned 55 on April 24. “If I get the mounts, I’ll be OK. The older guys (a category including such 50-plus Tampa Bay Downs mainstays as Jose Ferrer, Scott Spieth and younger brother Mike Allen) have plenty of experience on the younger riders, but you have to stay on top of it and be sharp.”

During a recent period of 11 racing days, Allen rode seven winners – four for his partner, trainer Maria Bowersock – to earn the Señor Tequila Mexican Grill Jockey of the Month Award.

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Ronnie Allen, Jr.

The four-time Tampa Bay Downs riding champion (most recently in 2010-2011) has climbed to ninth in the Oldsmar standings with 24 victories.

When he moves his tack next week to Presque Isle Downs in Erie, Pa., Allen will employ Mike Moran as his agent. They hope to improve on Allen’s seventh-place finish there in 2018. “Mike has been helping me the last two weeks, and I’m still working with Paula (Bacon, his current agent) until this meeting ends,” Allen said.

Allen expects to be under close scrutiny at Presque Isle Downs after missing five weeks of the Tampa Bay Downs season, from Jan. 27-March 2, because of a relapse after almost 12 years of sobriety. He voluntarily committed to a residential treatment program at Turning Point of Tampa, where he was forced to confront his addiction to alcohol.

Allen said Sunday he has been sober 14 weeks (and counting). “I plan on not drinking the rest of my life,” said Allen, who said he relapsed “for no particular reason.

“This job can be stressful, and I may have forgotten how bad it used to be before I got sober in 2007. I have a disease, and it’s something I have to take care of all the time because I can’t stop after one drink,” he said. “I had to get my act together and get treatment and freshen up again.”

Allen is grateful to Bowersock and his father, former Thoroughbred trainer and Tampa Bay Downs employee Ronnie Allen, Sr., as well as the track’s Vice President of Marketing & Publicity, Margo Flynn, for their support.

He attends several Alcoholics Anonymous meetings a week and has a sponsor he can contact whenever he feels a need to discuss personal issues.

Allen is following the 12-step program of AA, starting at the top: admitting he is powerless over alcohol, coming to believe a power greater than himself could restore him to sanity and turning his will and life over to the care of God, as he understands Him.

“The years I was sober were the happiest years of my life,” Allen said. “I want that again. I want to be happy and I want to be successful, and I’m not going to have that if I’m drinking.”

Allen, who says he confined his drinking to home, admits there were days he turned down assignments after drinking the previous day. “It definitely put me at a disadvantage,” he said. “I would rather sit at home and be lazy than work (when he was drinking).

“It was taking a toll on my business, and I knew I had to change something.”

Moran, a former jockey who will continue to represent Antonio Gallardo at Presque Isle Downs, said he is excited to work with Allen.

“Everybody makes mistakes, and he has taken steps to take care of his problem,” Moran said. “The past few weeks, he has been focused like he has been for years. I respect him as a rider and I think he respects me as an agent, and it is my job to get him on as many horses as I can that have a good chance of winning.

“Ronnie rides hard to the wire, he tries hard every race and he’s just as strong as he’s ever been,” Moran said. “He puts horses in the right spots in a race; he’s not on the rail if the rail is a little dead, and he gets to the rail if that’s the place to be. He’s been fun to watch the last few weeks, and I’m looking forward to working with him at Presque Isle.”

Around the oval. Pablo Morales and Walber Alencar each rode two winners today.

Both of Morales’ victories came on the turf. He won the fourth race on Stratosphera, a 4-year-old filly owned by Steven Walfish and trained by D. E. Puckett. Morales added the seventh race on first-time starter Ty Ran a Homer, a 3-year-old Florida-bred colt owned by Nicholas J. Downes and trained by Kathleen O’Connell.

Alencar won the third race on Seattle Council, a 5-year-old gelding owned by Bonnie Graham and trained by Brian R. Lusk. Alencar added the eighth race on the turf with first-time starter Ambassador Luna, a 3-year-old Florida-bred filly bred and owned by Voodoomon Racing and trained by James Gulick.

Samy Camacho won the first race on Eternal Cross, a 3-year-old Florida-bred gelding owned by Maritza Weston and trained by Gerard Ochoa. Camacho, who finished the meeting with 123 victories (he is moving his tack to Gulfstream Park), received his Leading Jockey trophy for 2018-2019 after the sixth race.

Thoroughbred racing continues Friday with an eight-race card beginning at 12:25 p.m. Simulcast action will include the full card from Churchill Downs in Louisville, including the $1.25-million Longines Kentucky Oaks for 3-year-old fillies.

The winner of the Suncoast Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, Point of Honor, is on the also-eligible list and would need two fillies to scratch to gain entrance.

On Saturday, the Oldsmar oval will present a 10-race card leading to the simulcast of the 145th Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve. First-race post time here will be 12:20 p.m.

Patrons will be dressed to the nines in Derby finery, adding to the pageantry and aura of Thoroughbred racing’s greatest spectacle, and mint juleps will be sold in commemorative Kentucky Derby glasses, which sport the names of each winner from Aristides in 1875 through Justify in 2018. A hat contest will be held in the winner’s circle after the seventh race, with prizes awarded in women’s, men’s and children’s divisions.

Kentucky Derby Day at the Downs will be enhanced by a pair of $100,000, mile-and-40-yard local stakes races for 3-year-olds: the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association Silver Charm Florida Sire Stakes for males and the FTBOA Ivanavinalot Florida Sire Stakes for fillies. Both contests are for registered Florida-breds sired by an FTBOA-registered Florida stallion.

There will be three Tampa Bay Downs “graduates” in the Run for the Roses starting gate.

That trio includes Grade II Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby winner and Wood Memorial Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets winner Tacitus; Florida-bred Win Win Win, who won the Pasco Stakes here on Jan. 19 and finished third in the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby and second in the Toyota Blue Grass; and Spinoff, who posted a dominant allowance/optional claiming victory here on Feb. 22 and was second in the TwinSpires.com Louisiana Derby.

Both the Friday and Saturday cards at Churchill Downs begin at 10:30 a.m.