05/27/2015 8:29PM

Pandolfo: Conversation with Harrington leading driver Allan Davis

Allan Davis is leading the driving colony at Harrington for the second straight year.

Harness driver Allan Davis has the right pedigree for a harness driver. His dad, Eddie Davis, won 8,632 races in his career. He led the nation in wins with 470 in 1983 and tied Herve Filion for the driving title with 404 wins in 1984. His brother, Eddie Davis, Jr., is currently driving in Maine and has over 4,000 career wins. His brother Martin Davis is a trainer.

The 39-year-old Davis won the driving title at Harrington Raceway last year and is the leading driver at Harrington so far in 2015. He finished 2nd behind Corey Callahan at the just ended Dover Downs meet. In 2013, he had a break-out year winning 322 races for $3.2 million and last year he won 338 races for just under that amount.

Davis took some time out to talk about his career and racing in general.

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Pandy: Your dad, Eddie Davis, was a great driver. He was a patient driver, something you don't see these days.  He reminded me a lot of Herve Filion. He was cagey; he had a lot of skill.

Allan Davis: He was. Ronnie Pierce always tells me that my dad should be in the Hall of Fame. In those days, there was more strategy than there is now. Ronnie told me that he would see an opening along the rail but when he'd try to come through my dad would shift his wheels over just enough to pin him along the hub rail.

Pandy: I'm not a fan of the passing lane. Back then the horse sitting third almost always went first over. The passing lane cuts down on the movement and action.

Davis: I agree. And they even pulled out of the two-hole more often. Now if you're sitting second or third you have a shot because of the passing lane. Without the passing lane, if you're third and you don't pull first over, you might get shuffled back to last.

Pandy: Now that you get better horses to drive and you're one of the top drivers, do you always know what you're going to do before the race?

Davis: I analyze the race beforehand and I definitely have a plan. But I'd say roughly 60% of the time Plan A becomes Plan B because the complexion of the race changes. I may be thinking of leaving from post 8 but then the 7 horse blasts out of the gate and you have to react. Being able to react quickly is an important part of driving. As you get more experienced, you learn that.

Pandy: I've noticed that you leave the gate better now than you did several years ago. Is that something that you get better at?

Davis: Oh, definitely. I watched a lot of races before I ever started driving, and of course I watched my dad closely. But once I started driving I watched the top drivers and you pick things up. I've driven against Ronnie Pierce a lot and he's one of the best. If you want to improve, you watch someone like Pierce and you learn.

Any driver can hustle a horse out of the gate, but with experience I learned when to float them around the turn, and then brush down the backstretch, which you may have to do with a horse that doesn't handle the turns so he doesn't break stride. I've also learned how to score them down for leaving, to rev them up a little, something I didn't do when I first started.

Pandy: In modern harness racing, the driver on the lead often tries to open up on the field with a quick third quarter. It seems to me, that puts the first over horse in a predicament. How do you handle that?

Davis: For me, personally, I don't like to chase them. Sometimes I may if I have that type of horse, but most of the time I'll rate my horse. I like being first over, almost as much as I like being on the lead.

The way I look at it, when I'm first over, I'm sort of on the lead, but I'm leading the outside. So I can control the race just like I'm on the lead. If the driver on the lead wants to try to bottom the field, let him. I can take a hold and then get him in the end. And in the meantime I can back up someone behind me, make it harder for them to catch me once I make my move.

Pandy: Your parents own Nova Artist, a classy 8-year-old horse who has 39 career wins and $928,107 in earnings. You've done well driving him.

Davis: He's a good one. With Nova Artist, even though he has speed, he actually prefers to race off a helmet. I've won a lot of races going first over with him. Some horses like to have a target in front of them and Nova Artist is that type.

Pandy: Besides Dover and Harrington in Delaware, you're driving at Harrah's Philadelphia. How is it driving there?

Davis: It's tough (laughing). At Harrington I'm getting first call on a lot of good horses, and it's fun. It's always fun when you're winning. I'm fortunate enough to be driving a lot of horses for a sharp trainer, Wayne Givens.

I just drove in the biggest race of my career at Harrah's last Sunday. I drove Ooh Bad Shark in the Betsy Ross. The purse was $150,000. I've done well in some of the Delaware Sire Stakes races, which had $100,000 purses, but this was the biggest purse I've had a shot at. I had post seven and Ooh Bad Shark finished third against some of the best mares in the country. Earlier on the card I won with her half-brother, Ooh Bad Boy, also out of the seven-hole, and he paid $35.00. They're out of the same mare, Ooh Bad Girl, and trained by William Wiggins.  

At Harrah's some of the top drivers are there and they get the better horses. But the purses are good and I'm driving there Fridays, Sundays and some Thursdays. I'm starting to get better horses to drive there, though. That's why I think that this year could be my best year overall.

To find out more about Pandy’s handicapping theories check out his www.trotpicks.com or www.handicappingwinners.com websites, his free picks at handicapping.ustrotting.com/pandycapping.cfm or write to Bob Pandolfo, 3386 Creek Road, Northampton, PA 18067.