Johnny Allen only arrived in Australia a few years ago as a struggling jump jockey on a working holiday. Today the Irish-born jockey is one of Australia's most successful flat jockeys.
The 34-year-old hails from Co Cork and only visited Australia to take part in an international jumps jockey series, but he has since made Victoria home and is amassing a career not many expected to happen.
With 444 wins and over A$17 million in prize money, Allen has become one of the more trusted jockeys riding in Australia and most of his success has come in flat races, something he rarely tried when riding in Ireland.
Allen first visited Australia in 2005 when riding in the Jumps Jockey Series and returned in 2011 for a permanent move with Victoria’s leading trainer Darren Weir, who subsequently encouraged Allen to try his hand on the flat, given his natural light riding weight.
“I didn’t know what to expect when I came out originally,” Allen said. “It was just to see what happened and when I did come back in 2012, I had it in the back of my mind that the opportunities over jumps were limited there. I was never heavy for a jumps rider so it wasn’t hard to make weight.”
The softly-spoken rider has had most of his success at the country level in Victoria, with 2,308 starts for 365 wins and 581 placings, but he has also had success at the top level. Four Group 1 wins have put Allen on many trainers’ to-use lists and winning the 2018 Victoria Derby aboard Extra Brut was something special for Allen.
“It's unbelievable, really," Allen said. "I've come a long way in a couple of years and that's all due to Darren Weir and his team.”
Going back to ride in Ireland isn’t high on the priority list for Allen, but he has made an effort to return to Co Cork for his holidays.
“I am thinking about maybe going back for a couple of months. I did that in 2012, when I rode a few over the Christmas holiday period, but that was a few years back and I haven’t been back,” Allen said.
Allen’s first big-race success in the Australia horse racing scene came in the South Australian Derby.
He rode the Weir-trained Howard Be Thy Name, who had been well-supported in markets and much of that was due to the confidence Allen instilled in punters.
“I came from Ireland as a fat jumps jockey but I've managed to get a Group 1 win,” Allen said. “I never really rode on the flat and this is my biggest success to date.”
Allen hasn’t slowed down since and he captured the VRC Mackinnon Stakes at the recent Melbourne Spring Carnival with Trap For Fools. Allen's mount defeated Joseph O'Brien's Irish Derby winner Latrobe by a neck.
Allen's success is firmly on the back of hard work and riding for the Darren Weir stable certainly helps his cause.
“Darren Weir has been grateful enough to give me a permanent position riding for him. His stable is going incredibly and I’m happy to be a part of the success,” he said.
The Australian spring season is coming to a close as the summer months approach, but punters can expect to see Johnny Allen at his very best in the autumn and winter months when he will be riding in both flat and jumps races.