JOHNNY ALLEN has reached double figures for group one wins in Australia, following his brace of top-level triumphs, across the past two weekends.
Since making the move Down Under, almost eight years ago, the Cork jockey has subsequently partnered over 600 winners, which have amassed nearly $30million dollars in prize money.
Racing in Australia has continued behind closed doors, during the current pandemic. Allen, who hails from the Kilworth-Araglen region, was in action at Morphettville, for the recent Adelaide racing carnival.
His latest top-level victories arrived there aboard the Danny O’Brien-trained Russian Camelot, in the South Australian Derby, and the Godolphin-owned Trekking, in The Goodwood sprint. He also had a brace of pattern wins for Tony and Calvin McEvoy at the meeting, partnering Game Keeper and Ringbolt to win the Adelaide Guineas and the Sires Produce Stakes respectively. The race day experience may have somewhat changed; but Allen continues to shine.
“We’ve been lucky enough to be able to race on. It’s definitely a little different; there’s no crowd there. It probably lacks that atmosphere. But once you’re out there, in the action, it’s the same.
“Everyone is still able to make a living and continue with their daily work. It’s hard to believe how big an industry it is here (with over 100,000 people in the Victoria region working in racing), you probably don’t realise it until you get here.
“Due to Covid-19, and different restrictions that governments have, once you crossed the border to South Australia, you had to self-isolate, before you were allowed to mix back in among society. I had to go two weeks early, I rode down there for three weekends and I drove back last Sunday. Racing Victoria are making all jockeys who return from South Australia isolate for two weeks.”
Formerly a jump jockey, Allen finished runner-up in the 2003-04 race to be leading conditional rider in Ireland, and he also won the prestigious Pierse Hurdle at Leopardstown the same season, on Charles Byrnes’ Dromlease Express.
Once opportunities had begun to dry up on home soil, Allen made the trip to Australia, for a jump jockeys’ challenge, in 2011. He returned the following year to stay on. The 35-year-old is now living in Ballarat, Victoria. His Australian venture has proved a fruitful one.
“I’ve had a bit of luck over here. It’s hard to imagine I’d have been as successful when I arrived here first. I came here chancing my arm, to see a bit of the world and see how things got on. Things have gone well; long may it last. Jump racing here is on a very small scale.
“I was never very heavy and I made the switch to the Flat just to gain more opportunities. Obviously, it is a little different. The tracks are a bit different, riding styles are a bit different, but you have to adapt and work it as best as you can,” he said.
Allen achieved another landmark last year, when he rode in the iconic Melbourne Cup for the first time, linking up with Joseph O’Brien, to ride Downdraft in the ‘Race That Stops A Nation.’
It wasn’t a winning mount, though it was fitting perhaps that the handler is the grandson of the late Joe Crowley, who was one of the rider’s main supporters during the early part of his career.
The highlight of Allen’s time in Australia so far is arguably his triumph in the 2018 Victorian Derby, aboard Extra Brut, at Flemington.
He has thrived since switching countries, and codes, and now Allen wants to continue on his winner-fuelled express. That is what motivates him, day to-day, carnival to carnival.
“You just have to have that hunger and desire to win, that winning feel. Racing is my passion. It’s what I love doing. I feel very lucky that I’m able to be working in a job that I consider to be my hobby almost.
“When you’re in this industry, your success is deemed on how many winners you ride and what winners you ride. That drive to get the next big winner and as many winners as you can,” he said.