Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pair of jockeys battle for Tampa Bay Downs title

OLDSMAR — Antonio Gallardo walked out of the jocks' room and headed for the parking lot. Not far behind was Ronnie Allen Jr.

Seldom has there been much ground between the two riders, who are engaged in the closest battle for a jockey championship in the past decade at Tampa Bay Downs.

Gallardo vs. Allen. Who will wear the crown?

Gallardo holds a 107-103 lead in wins. Seven days remain in the meet, including a June 30 card in the Summer Festival of Racing.

Gallardo and Allen will be at Presque Isle Downs in Erie, Pa., when the Downs holds its final program.

Both said they would consider returning if the title remained up for grabs. Gallardo has a home in Palm Harbor, and Allen resides in Tampa.

Gallardo, 26, has never been a leading rider. Allen, whose 50th birthday was Thursday, is seeking his fifth championship at the Downs, his last came in 2010-11.

"I bet it's been a while since the (jockey race) has been this close," Allen said. "It feels good just to do good. Leading rider is a bonus."

Only twice in the past 10 years has the Downs top rider won by fewer than 10 victories.

The average win margin for a champion has been 29, topped by Daniel Centeno's 81-win advantage in 2007-08.

Gallardo and Allen are the first riders to surpass the century mark in victories at the same meet within a 10 year span.

This season's duel is reminiscent of the 2003-04 meet, when Jesus Lopez Castanon captured his first career title by winning eight races in the final three days to edge T.D. Houghton 87-82.

Gallardo has overtaken Allen with 13 victories on the past six programs.

"I have a lot of confidence and know that I'm doing good," Gallardo said.

"A lot of trainers (at the Downs) have helped me a lot, and I have a good agent (Mike Moran)."

Gallardo, a native of Cadiz, Spain, is in his second season at the Downs. He had a super summer at Calder in Miami Gardens where his defining moment came Aug. 29 with four stakes wins on the same card, three for Downs conditioner Kathleen O'Connell.

"He listens and is very good with the babies," O'Connell said. "I think he has a great career in front of him. He's a hard worker. There's no one that deserves (the title) more than him."

Allen, a native of East Liverpool, Ohio, said he began to believe another title was possible in late December when early leader Fernando De La Cruz was sidelined with a broken wrist.

"De La Cruz was on fire," Allen said. "After he got hurt, I said, 'Oh man, I might be No. 1.' Then Gallardo picked up a lot of (De La Cruz's) mounts and came flying at me."

Downs leading trainer Jamie Ness marvels at Allen, who won two stakes this meet for conditioner Tom Proctor.

"He's a very talented guy," Ness said. "(Winning) is hard to do at 40 or 30, let alone 50. I think it's remarkable."

Pair of jockeys battle for Tampa Bay Downs title 04/25/14 [Last modified: Friday, April 25, 2014 8:35pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Peter Budaj loves 'vibe' with Lightning


    Two years ago, nobody was willing to give Peter Budaj a shot, the veteran goalie wondering if he'd ever play in the NHL again.

    Peter Budaj signed a two-year extension with the Lightning, worth $1.025 million per year.
  2. A test the Rays haven't passed

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — I have no idea what to think about the Rays. Not a clue.

    Tampa Bay Rays players celebrate their 8-3 win over the Cincinnati Reds Wednesday, June 21, 2017 in St. Petersburg.
  3. Tampa Bay Lightning 2017-18 schedule: Stanley Cup champion Penguins, expansion Golden Knights among the coming attractions

    Lightning Strikes

    The Lightning's season schedule was released Thursday afternoon, and there are plenty of must-see matchups coming to Amalie Arena. Here are the home games with the most intriguing storylines:

    The champs (Oct. 12, Oct. 21)

    The two-time defending champion Penguins make two early trips to Tampa. [AP photo]
  4. Tampa Bay Lightning 2017-18 schedule

    Lightning Strikes

    The Lightning's season schedule was released Thursday afternoon, and there are plenty of must-see matchups coming to Amalie Arena. Here is the full 2017-18 schedule.

    The Lightning's Brayden Point celebrates a goal during a game against the Ottawa Senators in February in Tampa. [AP photo]
  5. What Wilson Ramos will mean to the Rays lineup, pitching

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Chris Archer was stumping for all-star votes for Corey Dickerson during a live interview Wednesday morning on the MLB Network when he lifted the right earpiece on his headset and said, "I hear a buffalo coming."

    Tampa Bay Rays catcher Wilson Ramos (40) waves to the crowd after being presented with the Silver Slugger Award before the start of the game between the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Tuesday, April 4, 2017.