07/23/2008 12:00AM

Allen tops jockey standings

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Jockey Ronnie Allen Jr. leads the jockey standings at Presque Isle after overcoming a great deal of adversity in his personal life. Allen came back from a 4 1/2-year hiatus this past February at Tampa Bay Downs and won 46 races before coming north to Presque Isle. He has 59 wins this meet, seven more than his nearest rival, Rex Stokes.

The 44-year-old Allen is a recovering alcoholic.

"I thank God, my family, and my friends that I'm back and I am happy," Allen said.

Allen began riding 25 years ago and has won 2,254 races, with his mounts earning more than $17.7 million. Allen was born into a horse racing family. His dad, Ronald Allen Sr., is a longtime Thoroughbred trainer. Allen was born in East Liverpool, Ohio, while his parents were shipping horses to Mountaineer Park.

"It was called Waterford Park back in those days," Allen said. "My mother was pregnant and they had to stop at a hospital in East Liverpool and she delivered me there."

Allen began working for his father, grooming and walking horses. He then began exercising horses and rode his first race at Detroit Race Course in 1983. His biggest win came in the 1993 Tampa Bay Derby on Marco Bay. Allen's career declined after that. In 2002, he quit riding after wrestling with weight problems. Allen said it took a while for him to admit the drinking problem to himself and others "and from there I had to decide what I wanted to do with the rest of my life."

He began galloping horses again, first at a farm in Ocala, Fla., then North Carolina and Michigan, before restarting his career at Tampa. "People have stuck by me," Allen said. "It's great to be back riding races."