by Jeff Brammer
Barring a similar last-minute scratch that cost him an entry in the race last year, trainer John A. Casey will certainly have a glazed donut ready for Down Town Allen.
The 7-year-old bay mare will likely go off as a heavy favorite Saturday night in the $200,000 West Virginia Breeders Classic Cavada at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races.
Down Town Allen won the co-feature race for state-bred fillies and mares in 2012, but scratched with a foot bruise an hour prior to the race last fall after Casey noticed his champion older female walking “a little funny” in the shed row while warming up.
Fast forward a year and the best horse Casey has ever owned is healthy and happy, riding a six-race winning streak including all four of her starts in 2014.
Along the way, Casey has continued his longstanding tradition of stopping at local grocer Martin’s each morning and picking up a glazed donut for his homebred stable star.
With 23 career victories and more than $903,000 in earnings, Down Town Allen has earned more than her fair share of treats from Casey, her owner and breeder who also has conditioned her every step of the way since her debut in 2009.
If recent form is any guide, the daughter of Windsor Castle-Like Down Town, by Roy is indisputably in the best shape of her career as she prepares to chase another winner’s share of a purse that would carry her past the $1 million milestone.
The Cavada, scheduled for seven furlongs and two turns over the Charles Town oval, will be the co-feature Saturday during an evening racing card showcasing the best in West Virginia-bred horses competing for purses totaling $1.28 million. It will be race eight, and post time is 10:17 p.m.
Since its inception in 1987, the West Virginia Breeders Classics series has distributed $25 million in purse money to owners and breeders of state-bred horses.
Like she did a year ago, Down Town Allen is coming into the Cavada following a series of impressive victories that have only served to further decorate an already outstanding career.
She returned to the races victorious in April in the Original Gold Stakes after six months on the shelf following her scratch on Classics night.
Down Town Allen has since rattled off three more victories, including a four-length score in August in the Sadie Hawkins Stakes against Red Hot Diva, a likely morning line second choice in the Cavada if her connections opt to run her there Saturday night.
But the Sadie Hawkins victory this summer was also significant because Down Town Allen’s regular rider Matt McGowan wasn’t aboard due to an injury he had suffered previously after being kicked by a horse in the paddock.
McGowan has since returned after nearly a month away from the races and will replace fill-in jockey Erik Ramirez with the mount aboard Down Town Allen in the Cavada.
“Matt’s won 21 races on her,” Casey said. “It’s kind of hard to take him off.”
Fourteen horses in total were nominated for the Cavada, including last year’s winner Fear the Facelift, who capitalized on Down Town Allen’s late defection to top a short four-horse field. Eight of them actually entered the race.
That most likely leaves the queen bee and reigning state-bred champion older female Down Town Allen understandably topping a class all her own.
“She’s a great horse,” Casey said. “Real nice and quiet … but all business. (Last year’s scratch) was disappointing. It’s hard to turn down that money. But she’s been good to me. You’ve got to do it. You can’t cut your nose off to spite your face.”
Jeff Brammer is sports editor of the Spirit of Jefferson newspaper.