11/24/2017 10:01AM

Giwner: Rene Allard to focus on 2-year-olds in 2018 despite Meadowlands ban

Derick Giwner
Rene Allard ranks third in North America on the trainer earnings leaderboard.

If you follow harness racing, the banishment of certain trainers from The Meadowlands is hardly a new story. At or near the top of that list is trainer Rene Allard.

The saga goes back to May 2013 when Meadowlands operator Jeff Gural first publically confirmed that Allard would not be permitted to race at his tracks. The top man at The Meadowlands has reaffirmed that status throughout the years by stating at one point that he would go broke before allowing Allard to race and more recently when asked via email saying that he doubts he’d ever allow him to race.

One would think such a ban from the most lucrative stakes program in North America would hurt Allard from making a living, but the 30-year-old currently sits in third on the trainer earnings leaderboard with his horses accruing $6,189,746 (through 11/19) this year. The trainer also finished third in 2016 ($5,572,393) and 2015 ($6,177,017).

Allard has kept his stats strong by campaigning mostly proven older horses on the stakes scene since there are many events for these outside of Gural’s trio of tracks – Meadowlands, Tioga and Vernon. That will change to some extent in 2018 as Allard was much busier than normal at the biggest yearling sales.

Either under his own name or the “Team Allard” moniker, the trainer came away with 16 yearlings from the Lexington Selected Sale and Standardbred Sale at Harrisburg. By comparison, according to statistics provided by the United States Trotting Association, the trainer campaigned a total of just 10 2-year-olds from 2015 to 2017 combined.

“I think I’m ready for that,” said Allard about the switch to adding more yearlings. “I’ve had some cheap ones and done well and this seemed like the next stage for me.”

Considering the shift to additional younger horses, how will Allard navigate his current ban from The Meadowlands, which is a typical qualifying ground for babies and offers the Peter Haughton, Jim Doherty, Kindergarten series and this year the Fall Final Four for 2-year-olds? Will not having the Meadowlands Pace, Cane Pace, Stanley Dancer and other races hurt him when his horses reach their sophomore seasons?

“We will probably qualify at Pocono and get them (2-year-olds) going. They will be staked in all of the jurisdictions where they are supposed to be raced,” said Allard before focusing on the possibility of his horses not being permitted at The Meadowlands. “We’ll talk about it when we get to it, but I’m the type of guy that just keeps on going. Nothing is easy in life. I love what I do and I’m very passionate. I do my very best to be very professional and I’ll just keep on going. Hopefully in the future me and Mr. Gural can somehow work things out. It is not a subject that I really like talking about. Hopefully things will get better.”

While details of the reasoning behind the Gural ban were not released when it was announced, at least on the record, Allard shows one suspension in the U.S. of 45 days (2011) for a class 3 drug (Testosterone) and a 2016 class 4 positive (Isoflupredone) which resulted in a $1,000 fine. A horse under his care was also found to have Codeine and Morphine in his system in March of this year at Woodbine, but no action has been taken against Allard.

Of course, Allard is far from the only trainer currently racing with blemishes on their record and he was quick to point out that he is more susceptible to a positive because he starts upwards of 2,000 horses per year (ranked second in starts for 2016 & 2017). While in a perfect world any medication positive is unacceptable, Allard is permitted to race in New York, Pennsylvania and other locations. So the question switches to: Are those states incompetent/soft when it comes to punishment or is Gural too strict? Ultimately that likely depends on your own personal perspective.

For Allard, he is just hoping that one day this issue will be in his rearview mirror.

“I think there are a lot of people that don’t have the privilege to race at The Meadowlands. Hopefully, eventually we will work things out,” said Allard. “I think if you work hard, keep doing what you love and stay passionate, the door is going to open.”