McGowan enjoying winning ride aboard Down Town Allen
CHARLES TOWN – Matt McGowan has ridden in more than 8,800 races, but the 34-year-old journeyman jockey doesn’t hesitate when asked which horse resides atop his career list as the best. That honor goes to Down Town Allen.
The 7-year-old bay mare gave McGowan more ammunition to fuel that belief Saturday night at Charles Town when she led nearly every step of the way en route to a four-length victory over a field of five fellow West Virginia-bred females in the $50,000 Fancy Buckles Stakes.
Down Town Allen, the 1-2 favorite, covered the 4-½ furlong distance in 51.88 seconds over a dirt track rated fast. The victory was her fifth consecutive score dating back to last August, as well as her 18th career stakes win.
This was her third victory in the Fancy Buckles. Down Town Allen paid $3 to win on a $2 wager.
McGowan has been aboard the reigning champion older state-bred female for 21 of her 22 lifetime victories from 38 career starts. Down Town Allen has earned more than $872,000 in purse earnings and if she stays healthy is on track to eclipse the $1 million mark, a rarity for a West Virginia-bred racehorse.
“For me personally, she’s the biggest and best ever,” McGowan said. “I’ve ridden (two-time West Virginia Horse of the Year) Russell Road and he’s very, very close. But I just win so many races on her and she dominates races well for me. We get along so well and she’s been one of the big, big, big defining points of my career.”
Down Town Allen has been sharp this year while winning her first two outings, including defending her title April 19 when covering seven furlongs against fellow state-bred females in the $50,000 Original Gold Stakes at Charles Town.
But after following up that season-opening victory with an allowance score going seven furlongs against open company on May 24 at her home track, owner and trainer John A. Casey opted to shorten her up to 4 ½ furlongs to try to defend her title in the Fancy Buckles.
On Saturday night, Down Town Allen faced four rivals, including talented 4-year-old filly sprinter Jax and Jill. Two other horses had been entered, but scratched prior to the race.
The Bop Express, Royal Fireworks, Jax and Jill and Down Town Allen all broke sharply, while Won’t Be Denied, under jockey Travis Dunkelberger, hit the side of the gate on the way out and was pulled up quickly after struggling in the opening strides.
McGowan and Down Town Allen quickly wrested control and set the pace with a quarter-mile in 22.02 and a half-mile in 45.53.
Royal Fireworks, an 18-1 longshot under jockey Fredy Peltroche, and 9-5 second choice Jax and Jill, under jockey Gerald Almodovar, stalked the pace early while no farther than two lengths back. The Bop Express and jockey Xavier Perez trailed five lengths back in forth.
But Down Town Allen showed no signs of slowing as she continued on her left lead around the turn and drew off under a hand-ride by McGowan to coast to an easy score.
Royal Fireworks was clearly second best, finishing nearly two lengths better than 19-1 longshot The Bop Express. Jax and Jill faded to fourth, beaten nearly nine lengths after contesting the pace from the inside path while entering the first turn.
Won’t Be Denied jogged off after being pulled up before the half-mile pole.
“At 4 ½ it all depended on how Jax and Jill broke and Travis’ horse (Won’t Be Denied) broke,” McGowan said. “If those two went we were going to ease out. Well, Down Town Allen in her true form just broke out of the gates and went ‘what do you mean come around? I’m going to the front.’ I just geared her down the backside and all the way down the lane. She was just cruising.”
Casey has said that he plans to follow a schedule similar to previous campaigns, with Down Town Allen pointed toward the $200,000 West Virginia Breeders’ Cavada Stakes in October. Down Town Allen won the seven-furlong Cavada in a stakes-record time of 1:25.85 in 2012, but she had to scratch the day of the race last year due to a foot bruise.
Apart from the possibility of appearing in an allowance race in July, next up for Down Town Allen will likely be the $50,000 Sadie Hawkins Stakes on Aug. 16 at Charles Town. She has already won the seven-furlong Sadie Hawkins twice, including last August when she kicked off her current five-race winning streak.
Recent open-company allowance winner Margaret High and multiple stakes winner Red Hot Diva also have been pointed toward the Sadie Hawkins, each of the horses’ trainers have said.
McGowan, who also serves as the regular rider for Red Hot Diva, will undoubtedly stay put atop Down Town Allen if the competitors were to meet later this summer.
“What you see with her is what you get,” McGowan said. “She’s calm, quiet and never really makes a bad move. She never really is rambunctious. She just goes about her business.”