Day At The Track

Allard seeks third straight Levy title

04:00 AM 19 Apr 2019 NZST
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Rene Allard, harness racing
Rene Allard

YONKERS, N.Y. – Harness racing trainer Rene Allard knows how it feels to win the George Morton Levy Memorial Pacing Series Final. The trainer captured Yonkers Raceway’s richest pacing event in each of the last two years with Keystone Velocity and took the 2015 edition with Domethatagain. Allard will take aim at his third straight Levy victory and fourth overall when he sends out Western Fame in Saturday night’s $662,800 series final.

The lead up to this year’s final has a distinct feel for Allard, however. His past winners were outsiders, or even longshots. Despite drawing post one, Domethatagain was 6-1 in the final after winning one preliminary leg and finishing second in another. Keystone Velocity pulled off an 11-1 surprise in winning his first Levy title and was a tepid 5-2 favorite last year after scoring just one victory in the preliminaries. Western Fame however, is expected to be a heavy favorite Saturday night.

“I think it’s a lot of pressure, more pressure than usual because we’re going to have the favorite,” Allard said. “Having the favorite is always a little extra pressure, but I would rather be the favorite than the longest shot on the board. That means we have a good shot.”

A fixture in the barn of Jimmy Takter since the beginning of his career, Western Fame won a division of the Bluegrass and eliminations of the Little Brown Jug and Breeders’ Crown and finished second in the Jug Final, Pennsylvania Sire Stakes Final, Tattersalls Pace, and Matron Stakes at 3. At 4, Western Fame captured the Prix d’Été and Confederation Cup and was third in the Graduate Final. After racing at the FFA level throughout 2018, Allard eyed the Western Ideal son for his stable.

“I was looking, trying to find a horse to replace Keystone Velocity. He was going to stud to breed and retire and I was looking for one in that age group,” Allard explained. “I obviously didn’t think McWicked and a couple of those other ones would be for sale, but I thought this one might come up for sale because I knew Jimmy was retiring. I contacted them and said, ‘if this horse ever comes up for sale, let me know.’ ”

About a month later, Allard’s phone rang. Western Fame was for sale. Allard agreed on a price, and the deal was complete. “Everything happened pretty fast,” Allard added.

Western Fame made a favorable impression from the moment he arrived in the barn. His intelligence and professionalism impressed his new trainer, who owns the stallion in partnership with Go Fast Stable, Stephen Klunowski, B And I Stable, and Gilbert Short.

“Classy horses like him are definitely pleasant to be around. He’s a good horse to be around, very smart horse, obviously Takter did a great job with him throughout his career,” Allard said. “Everything he does, he does it right. Working around fast horses, those are the ones I like to work around the best. I don’t mind if they have issues, but if they have speed, that’s half the battle.”

Western Fame made his first start for Allard December 2, 2018 when he captured the $100,000 Potomac Pace at Rosecroft Raceway. After a winter break, Western Fame qualified back at Yonkers February 2 before making his seasonal debut March 9 in the Open Handicap at Saratoga. Although he finished third in that start, he was rough around the final turn as he made a bid to circle the field.

“The first start this year, he was struggling a little bit in the turns,” Allard said. “We changed his shoeing and did a couple adjustments to his equipment and he’s been super ever since. We changed his shoes, we have spreaders on him, and he’s been really good since.”

Western Fame put his Levy rivals on notice with a first-leg blowout win March 17. He scored in wire-to-wire fashion by 5 ¾ lengths in 1:51.1, pacing a final quarter in :27. After a runner-up finish in week two, Western Fame returned to his dominant ways, taking legs three, four, and five by 2, 5 ½, and 1 ¾ lengths, respectively. Western Fame kicked home in :27 in his last two starts and his fourth-leg victory came in 1:50.4, equaling the season’s mark at Yonkers.

“We knew he was a good horse. He’s won a lot of races at the highest level, so we thought he’d be a nice horse to have for the aged pacing stakes, but he’s really gone beyond our expectations. He’s been really good,” Allard said.

Western Fame drew post position five in the rich Levy Series Final and is expected to be a heavy favorite off his dominance in the preliminaries. However, fellow leavers The Downtown Bus, JJ Flynn, and Anythingforlove all drew inside the series leader. Allard will leave the race tactics to regular driver Dan Dube, who piloted both Keystone Velocity and Domethatagain to their Levy wins.

“I think the horse can be driven any way. Throughout his career, he’s done it from every spot, so I don’t think he’s only one way,” Allard said. “But I believe Dube is probably going to be pretty aggressive being the favorite in there.

“Western Fame has been super since we purchased him. He’s ultra-consistent and I expect him to be right there on Saturday again,” Allard continued. “He looks good, feels good. Any time you go for that kind of money on a half-mile track, it’s never easy. It’s not going to be easy, so hopefully everything goes well, and we’ll keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best.”

For Allard, winning the Levy carries meaning beyond the purse money. He considers Yonkers his home track; he was leading trainer in 2015, 2016, and 2018 and currently tops the trainer standings. Last year, Allard made nearly half of his 1,717 starts at the Hilltop.

“Yonkers is the racetrack that I race at the most and this is the biggest race of the year for us there. I haven’t had a chance to have a trotter in the International yet, maybe one day, but the Levy is a race that anyone who races at Yonkers wants to win,” Allard said. “It makes it extra special; that’s our track that we race at, we’re there every night. It means a lot to win that race, it would mean a lot to get it done.

“Last time we won, I think I had Dube on top of my shoulders,” Allard continued. “Every time we win, the party gets a little crazier and crazier. We celebrate; that’s one thing that we do with Team Allard is we try to have fun. You live only once, so we try to live right.”

The field for the Levy Series Final is listed below:


Post Position   Horse   Driver  Trainer 
1       Anythingforlove A         Joe Bongiorno             Jenn Bongiorno
2       More The Better N       Scott Zeron                  Ross Croghan
3       JJ Flynn                       Tim Tetrick*                  Josh Green
4       The Downtown Bus     Tim Tetrick*                 Jeff Gillis
5       Western Fame             Dan Dube                    Rene Allard
6       Rodeo Rock                 Andrew McCarthy       Robert Cleary
7       The Wall                       Andy Miller                  Nick Surick
8       Ideal Jimmy                  Brent Holland               Erv Miller

Driver choice to be announced.

Saturday night’s card also features the $401,600 Blue Chip Matchmaker Series Final, the $100,000 Levy Series Consolation, the $75,000 Matchmaker Series Consolation, and a $50,000 Open Handicap Trot. First post time is 6:50 p.m. For entries to the races, click here

Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

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