12/16/2008 12:00AM

New tactics may help Dream Rush go longer

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OLDSMAR Fla. - It's not often a horse comes directly from the Breeders' Cup to a race at Tampa Bay Downs, but it happened on opening day last weekend when Dream Rush, who last raced in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint, returned with an impressive victory over a solid field of allowance runners going six furlongs.

Trained by Bill Phipps, Dream Rush displayed a new racing style last Saturday. Instead of contesting the lead from the start, as Dream Rush usually does, the 4-year-old filly waited patiently just off the early pace through the opening half-mile. She was then swung outside into the stretch by Daniel Centeno to challenge for the lead, moved in front, and prevailed by three-quarters of a length in 1:10.54. She was awarded an 89 Beyer Speed Figure, and was likely a bit less than 100 percent fit and tight in her first race since October.

Phipps, who formerly worked for trainer Bill Mott, was happy with what he saw and is hopeful that Dream Rush's new running style will allow her greater latitude in future races.

"We've been working with her in the mornings in an attempt to see if we could get her to rate from off the pace and finish up strong, so her effort Saturday was very positive," Phipps said from his office at the Payson Park training center. "Now that she's older, many of the better races are at longer distances, and if she can learn to conserve some of her natural speed she'll have a better chance with top fillies and mares going longer."

Phipps indicated he will look for a spot in January at Tampa and Gulfstream Park for Dream Rush's next start.

Dream year for Ronnie Allen Jr.

This time last season, Ronnie Allen Jr. was galloping horses, trying to get fit and hoping he would just be able to get back in the saddle and win a few races after not riding for more than four years due to personal problems.

Now, as 2008 comes to a close, Allen begins the Tampa Bay Downs meeting with high hopes. He has won more than 140 races and finished among the leaders in the jockey standings at Presque Isle Downs while his mounts have earned more than $2 million.

Has Allen surprised himself with his success this season?

"Frankly, yes, I am surprised at how well things have gone since I came back here last winter," Allen said. "I had no big expectations last winter when I came back. I just missed riding so much I was happy to be getting back on horses at the track and riding races. Of course, I wanted to win races, but to have things go as well as they have has been a very pleasant surprise.

"We had a good summer at Presque Isle and actually were in front for a time in the riders' standings," he added. "We had a good meeting last winter here after starting midway through the meet, and now things look promising for this meeting. Truthfully, if you'd told me last December that I'd have the kind of year I had, I would have laughed at you. It's just great to be riding and winning on a regular basis again."

Allen has to be considered one of the threats for leading rider along with Centeno, who is shooting for his third title in a row, and Rosemary Homeister Jr., who finished second in the standings here last season and was just two wins short of 2,000 career wins through Tuesday.

There are a number of riders who also can be expected to make their presence felt here this winter, including Luis Gonzalez, who posted a riding double on opening day; Mike Allen, who had a big summer at Presque Isle; and Paco Lopez, who has won more 200 races this season.

Others not to be overlooked include Andrew Ramgeet, Huber Villa-Gomez, and Willie Martinez.