01/17/2004 12:00AM

Allen starts off far better than usual


OLDSMAR, Fla. - The first month of the season at Tampa Bay Downs has produced some stunning results and an assortment of intriguing facts and figures.

If you had wagered on every horse sent out by the current leading trainer, Ronnie Allen Sr., you would have a pocketful of cash. Allen has 9 winners from 42 starters through Jan. 16 with an average winning payoff of more than $27. Of course, that figure was boosted quite a bit by Tricks of Glory, who won the Inaugural at 34-1 and Above the Wind, who returned a whopping $132.40 when he captured the Pelican Stakes over Secret Romeo.

Allen, who has been a consistent force here for years but a trainer whose horses often seemed to come around later in the meeting, said he made no dramatic changes to trigger his blistering start this season.

"It's really just a case of having better horses for this meeting than in past years," Allen after training hours on Saturday. "That, and the fact our horses shipped well and we were here the day the track opened for training on the 13th of November. That they were able to train for a month before we started racing had to help."

Allen reported Tricks of Glory came out of the Inaugural with a small problem and would be sidelined for a bit. Above the Wind beat Secret Romeo again recently in an allowance prep for the Super Stakes and is on target to start in that seven-furlong race this Saturday.

Proctor off to amazing start

Tom Proctor has had 7 wins and 4 seconds from 12 starts at the meeting for a remarkable 60 percent winning percentage. This isn't as shocking as it might seem at first glance, because Proctor, a son of long time trainer Willard Proctor, has led the meeting here in win percentage each of the past two seasons.

Joe Woodard and Charles Simon, two newcomers from the Kentucky circuit, are both winning at better than a 30 percent clip, while Layne Giliforte, who came in with a strong string this season, including a number of horses owned by the late John Franks, is also off to a strong start with 7 winners from 42 starts.

One shocking figure concerns Don Rice, who is just 2 for 49 through Jan. 16. Rice, who has led the standings here seven times, including last season, usually gets off to a slow start and gets stronger as the meeting progresses. Rice has been claiming fresh stock lately and will no doubt be a force eventually.

Judice leads competitive group

Among the jockeys, there is little doubt this is the deepest colony from a talent and ability standpoint in the track's history. T.D. Houghton and Oliver Castillo have been the hottest riders this past week. Houghton has made it clear he will be a major factor in the race for leading rider, moving to within four wins of Joe Judice's leading total of 31.

Judice got off to a quick start, helped by some heavy hitters from the Kentucky circuit who were dropping down sharply in class. Since then he has leveled off a bit but still has plenty of business and continues to win.

Jesus Castanon is also winning at better than a 20 percent clip and was two behind Judice before to last Saturday's program.

Judice and Federico Mata, who has won two of the four stakes this meeting, both rode more than 200 winners in 2003. Seven others in the jockey colony won more than 100 races last year, which means a bettor or trainer can probably go 10 or 12 deep here and still get a talented rider.