CHARLES TOWN – She’s back.
Multiple stakes winner and champion West Virginia-bred older female Down Town Allen has picked up this spring where she left off last fall, topping her rivals while sprinting on her home track.
The 7-year-old bay mare, owned and trained by John A. Casey, earned her 20th career victory – including 17 stakes races – Saturday night at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races, leading gate to wire against a field of nine rivals racing seven furlongs over a dirt track rated fast.
The $50,000 Original Gold Stakes for state-bred fillies and mares ages 3 years and upward was one of two stakes races restricted to West Virginia-bred horses on the undercard of the $1.5 million Grade 2 Charles Town Classic.
Down Town Allen and jockey Matt McGowan top a field of 10 to win the $50,000 Original Gold Stakes for West Virginia-bred fillies and mares ages 3 years and upward.
In the Fairway, a homebred 4-year-old colt owned by trainer Jeff Runco, won the other restricted stakes race, the $50,000 Confucius Say Stakes for state-bred horses 3 years and upward, which was also run at seven furlongs.
Ridden by Matt McGowan, Down Town Allen stopped the timer in one minute, 26.84 seconds for the seven furlongs. She finished 3 1/4 lengths clear of second place finisher Margaret High, who was 1 1/4 lengths better than Queen’o’daball. Flirting Song was a nose back in fourth.
Down Town Allen, the 7-to-10 favorite, returned $3.40, $2.40 and $2.20.
The victory, her 20th from 36 lifetime starts, pushed her career purse earnings to more than $823,000.
It was the second time in as many years that Down Town Allen has won the Original Gold Stakes to begin her season following a lengthy layoff, this time dating back Sept. 13 and a victory in a $35,000 handicap race. Down Town Allen had been entered to defend her 2012 Cavada West Virginia Breeders’ Classic crown last October, but was a late a race-day scratch following the discovery of a bruised foot.
On Saturday, with Casey sick at home fighting the flu, his longtime girlfriend, Christy Petty, saddled Down Town Allen in her first start this year, giving regular rider McGowan a leg up.
She broke sharply from the gate and set the early pace along the rail and down the backstretch in moderate fractions of 23.85 seconds for a quarter-mile and 48.62 for a half-mile. Margaret High and rider Wesley Ho made an effort to challenge the leader around the second turn and into the stretch, but Down Town Allen responded to urging by McGowan, repulsing a bid from her rival and extending her margin of victory in the final strides.
“I’ve been watching races all night and speed has been holding,” McGowan said afterward in the winner’s circle. “I got her inside and got her to settle down the backside. Christy and John will tell you that they don’t know about going that distance the first time back. I hate to sound like a broken record, but they do a great job with her. I had a ton of horse.”
McGowan said that Down Town Allen will likely follow a racing pattern similar to last year, with the ultimate goal of returning to the Cavada on West Virginia Breeders’ Classic night.
“Last year was a complete fluke,” McGowan said.
In the Confucius Say Stakes, In the Fairway and rider Jose Montano raced in second behind early leader Wise Mac before taking to the front in a field of eight West Virginia-bred males at the quarter pole. The 6-to-5 betting favorite raced clear midway through the final turn and then drew off in the final sixteenth to win by 4 1/2 lengths.
Wise Mac finished second, with a late-closing Allegheny Jack just a neck back in third. It was another 4 1/2 lengths back to Perfect Cross in fourth.
In the Fairway covered the seven furlongs over a dirt track rated fast in one minute, 26.36 seconds. He returned $4.20, $2.80 and $2.20.
It was In the Fairway’s second start of the year, following a second-place finish to Lucy’s Bob Boy last month in a state-bred allowance race. He now has 10 victories in 17 lifetime starts and more than $300,000 in earnings.
“He’s good,” Runco said. “He’s gotten a little older now. We gave him a little break over the winter. He had a few issues that we had to tend to over the winter. But it was a good winter to miss. He looks great and hopefully he’s just getting back strong and he should have a great 4-year-old campaign.”
Runco said he would see how In the Fairway exits the Confucius Say before determining the horse’s next start. The trainer said he would likely spread out In the Fairway’s races this year to try to keep the 4-year-old bay son of Posse fresh for a fall campaign.
Runco said he would like to keep the horse racing at Charles Town this year, but wouldn’t shy away from running In the Fairway in open company, as he the horse has already tallied victories against such rivals including an impressive triumph last November in a $35,000 handicap. The trainer also said he would think about a possible start in the $500,000 West Virginia Breeders’ Classic in October.
“Not too many Posse’s want to get a mile and an eighth,” Runco said. “But (In the Fairway) acts like he might be able to do it. He’s a great big horse. He’s got a big stride and he trains like he could do it. I’ll just have to see how he trains the rest of the summer.”
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