Day At The Track

Southern Allie - A millionaire for modern times

06:22 AM 06 Jul 2018 NZST
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Southern Allie, harness racing
Southern Allie will become a million dollar earner if he can win on Saturday
Chris Gooden photo

WASHINGTON, PA, July 5, 2018 -- With $994,934 in career earnings, Southern Allie will become harness racing's newest millionaire if he wins Saturday's $13,000 Conditioned/Optional Claiming Pace at The Meadows. Earning $1 million is always an impressive accomplishment for a Standardbred, but for Southern Allie, it's a particularly noteworthy achievement -- he's the model millionaire for the sport's modern times.

The 11-year-old Allie's Western-Pershing Angela gelding goes from post 2 in race 9 for owners Martin Valentic and John Bednarski, Jr., trainer J.L. Adams and driver Dan Rawlings. Saturday's card also features two rich pool guarantees -- $7,500 for the Pick 4 (races 4-7), $5,000 for the Pick 5 (races 9-13) -- as well as the Super High 5 (race 13). First post is 1:05 PM.

For most of harness racing's history, horses have earned $1 million by excelling in stakes at 2 and 3, usually performing for a single owner or partnership. Then, quite often, it was off to a new career in the breeding shed. In recent years, tracks have enriched purses for overnight events to keep their equine stars racing longer. As a result, a horse that remains healthy and competitive can pile up earnings into his later years, though he may be doing so for a progression of new owners buying him at the claiming box.

That's the template Southern Allie has cut. At 2 and 3, he banked a respectable $51,410 in Maryland Sires Stakes. He began to shine at 4 when, for his new trainer, Ron Burke, he won a pair of legs in the George Morton Levy Series, finishing fifth in the final. Trainer Randy Bendis and his partners purchased Southern Allie privately when the gelding was 5.

"We bought him in a package deal," Bendis recalls, " and it looked on paper like he might have been the lesser of the two horses. He's one of those horses who do all the little things right. He just aims to please.

"He did go through a stretch when he had a problem with Lasix, and we had to take him off it. He's using it again, so maybe he's tolerating it better with age."

In the last few years, Southern Allie has changed hands five times. Trainer Mark Goldberg claimed him twice, each time for $20,000.

"He's battled it out every year and made decent money almost every year," Goldberg says. "He's been all right for just about everybody who's owned him. He's the ultimate professional."

Goldberg last lost Southern Allie via a $14,000 claim.

"I wanted to (protect him)," Goldberg says, 'but it's tough to play the conditioned race game. If you wait until the horse gets beat enough times that he gets to drop down, the purse might not be worth the wait."

No matter the owner, no matter the race conditions, Southern Allie always has performed well. His best year, swollen by those Levy checks, was 2011, when he earned $233,330, and he's never won less than $54,000 in a season following his freshman campaign. Moreover, he never takes a race off, an attitude that itself is worth a million bucks. Says Bendis:

"When your day was going bad and things weren't going right, you could count on him to go out and do his work right and do everything he possibly could to win. He's a gamer. He never had a bad day."

Adams thinks Southern Allie can remain competitive for some time.

"If you look at him, you'd never guess he's 11," Adams says. "He has four great legs, no soft tissue problems. He's as good as he was last year at this time."

Whenever he reaches $1 million, Southern Allie will get a congratulatory blanket. Adams purchased it when the target came into sight.

"He's been a classy horse around here for quite a few years," Adams says. "He deserves it."

Following Saturday's card, the "Rockin' on the Rail" series of live concerts continues on the apron with a performance by the Matt Barranti Band.

by Evan Pattak, for The Meadows

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