Rene Allard has been one of harness racing’s most dominant trainers over the course of the last decade. The Canadian invader races some horses north of the border but the majority of his damage is done at tracks in the northeast portion of the U.S. Allard is a familiar name to fans of Saratoga Casino Hotel as the now veteran conditioner consistently finishes among the top handful of trainers at the Spa despite only racing here from time to time. We have seen a bit less of Allard’s trainees in 2019 compared to the last few seasons but the 32 year old conditioner has been popping up in local Opens quite a bit more in recent weeks.
On the biggest night of the season at Saratoga on Saturday July 20th, Allard brought some heavy duty artillery to town to compete. His Western Fame was installed as the morning line favorite in the $260,000 Joe Gerrity Jr. Memorial Pace and while the superstar pacer had to settle for a fifth place finish in the season’s richest race at the Spa, Allard had a quartet of his trainees shine. Though a Gerrity title wasn’t in the cards for the Allard stable, by the time the evening was completed, his barn did have the fastest trotter and fastest pacing mare of the year at Saratoga. A trio of $25,000 Opens served as “undercards” for the Gerrity that night and Allard had horses in all three of the Opens as well as a $20,000 Winners Over for pacers competing just below the Open level.
The evening was filled with pacing events but the lone exception was the Open Trot. Allard’s Im The Muscle had prevailed in his previous start in the local trotting feature when he outclosed his rivals to score in 1:54.3 with leading driver Billy Dobson in the sulky. After that start, the four year old recent addition to the Allard stable went to Pocono Downs and posted a new lifetime mark as he trotted to a 1:53.4 victory. Following a fourth-place try at Yonkers, it was back to the Spa on Gerrity night for Im The Muscle who wound up taking advantage of fast fractions in his race coupled with the fact that the favorite was parked the mile. Im The Muscle closed sharply in the final half and drew away to win the richest Open of the year thus far and did so in 1:53.2. The time not only lowered the career mark he set just two weeks previous at Pocono but also served as the fastest in 2019 for any trotter at Saratoga.
With one Open score under his belt on the evening, Allard sent out Stars Align A to try and add an Open Pace win to the evening’s credentials. Stars Align A appeared poised to record his second local Open Pace victory of the year but the Australian invader got reeled-in in the final strides before having to settle for a third-place finish. Allard wouldn’t have to wait long to return to the winner’s circle though and after his Somewhere Fancy swooped the group in the $20,000 Winners Over pace, his stable looked for a Saturday evening hat trick when pacing mare Eclipse Me N went off as the odds-on favorite in the Fillies and Mares Open. Dobson sat behind the talented distaffer and wasted very little time powering her out to the lead. Eclipse Me N never suffered an anxious moment as she powered away from her rivals before stopping the timer in 1:51.4 to record the fastest win for a lady pacer at Saratoga in the ’19 season.
Now owning the fastest time for a trotter and for a distaffer at the Spa in 2019 after his Open wins on Gerrity night, Allard brought a different group of trainees to town to compete in Opens last week. Lyons River Pride was making her debut out of the Allard barn when she came to the Spa to race in Friday’s $15,000 Fillies and Mares Open. She was coming off a career-best win at Harrah’s Philadelphia but had been off three weeks before coming to town. The brief layoff proved to be no problem for Lyons River Pride as she was a decisive winner in her local debut going coast-to-coast in 1:52.4 with Dobson in the sulky.
On Saturday, Allard looked to keep the Open train rolling when his Beach Boogie came to town off three wins in his previous four starts out of town. Dobson again got the call and took Beach Boogie back early as the race’s favorite Hudson Phil cruised out the front end. To beat Hudson Phil in a Saratoga Open has been a tall order this season as the rising star owned six Open victories when he went off as the public’s odds-on favorite on Saturday. Hudson Phil posted fast fractions and Beach Boogie made his move after the first half went in 55.2. After following the cover of a fellow Yonkers invader, Beach Boogie fanned three-wide around the final turn and came storming home, passing Hudson Phil in the stretch to score in 1:51.2. It was the first career local victory in the Open for Beach Boogie. As for Allard, he had three Open wins all year long heading into Gerrity night, an evening that launched a hot streak at the Spa for the top-flight conditioner. Allard has now scored victories in four of the last five Opens at Saratoga and has done it with four different horses spanning all three Open classifications. Among his feature winners is the fastest mare thus far this season and the fastest trotter at the Spa in the ’19 campaign. Though the number of starts has been significantly lower this season than in years past, Rene Allard still sits just outside the top ten in wins among local trainers aided by his recent summer surge in Spa features, a hot streak that, if history is any indication, could very well continue in the coming weeks.
Live racing takes place every Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday evening this summer with first post time each night set for 7:05pm. Until next week, I’m Mike Sardella wishing you the best of luck and we’ll see YOU at the finish line!