Johnny Allen will ride Irish international State Of Rest in this year's Ladbrokes Cox Plate
By Ben Caluzzi
The meteoric rise of jockey Johnny Allen ever since he arrived in Australia has been nothing short of remarkable. Born in Ireland and formerly a jumps jockey, Allen has been calling Australia home for the past ten years. The 2020/21 Victorian Jockey Premiership winner is riding as well as he ever has as he prepares for his third tilt at the W.S Cox Plate.
From Mildura on a Monday to Moonee Valley on a Saturday, Allen is widely recognised as being consistently one of the best. He is one of the hardest working and most travelled jockeys we have. Yet, when asked about how he manages it all, the answer is simple.
“I’m not one to really rest on my laurels,” Allen said.
“I enjoy going to the races. I suppose I do ride quite a lot, but I don’t really look at it as work.”
A thick Irish accent that has been made famous by the sheer number of post-race winning interviews he has done; it is one of the feel-good stories of the Carnival that Allen will partner Irish raider State Of Rest in this year’s Ladbrokes Cox Plate.
Trained by dual Melbourne Cup-winning trainer Joseph O’Brien, State Of Rest is a last-start winner of the Group 1 Saratoga Derby in the US. In fact, he follows a very similar pathway to 2014 Cox Plate winner Adelaide – the first-ever international winner of the Cox Plate who was trained by Joseph’s father, Aidan.
As a speedy 2000-metre type with a turn of foot most sprinters would be proud of, State Of Rest looks tailormade for the tight circumferences of The Valley. His ability to handle the hard left-turning track at Saratoga Springs could be pivotal in this year’s Ladbrokes Cox Plate.
Having arrived at the Werribee International Horse Centre only two weeks ago, Johnny Allen is yet to have his first sit on State Of Rest. That will soon change after the horse finishes quarantine, with the Irishman keen to re-establish his connection with the O’Briens.
“I actually worked for Joseph’s grandfather many years ago,” Allen said.
“I then rode for Joseph about three years ago with a horse named Downdraft, who ran in the Moonee Valley Gold Cup and then won at Flemington.
“Joseph contacted me a couple of weeks ago to know if I was interested in riding him (State Of Rest) – and I jumped at the opportunity.”
The Irish have had a terrific record in the Cox Plate in recent years. The Aidan O’Brien-trained youngster Adelaide was the first to break the international drought in 2014, looping the field in near-record time. In 2015, globetrotting superstar Highland Reel ran a gallant 3rd behind the great mare Winx. Last year, Sir Dragonet led home an all-Irish bred first four with Armory, Russian Camelot, and Mugatoo filling the minor placings in Cox Plate 100.
Johnny Allen rode Mugatoo in the Ladbrokes Cox Plate last year with the horse running a super race after being posted wide. He also rode in 2018 when he was engaged on Kings Will Dream who suffered an injury.
Kings Will Dream, too, was Irish bred, but State Of Rest – who is currently $11 in Ladbrokes betting – appears to be Allen’s best Cox Plate chance yet.
Already a winner of 12 Group 1 races, Allen is no stranger to the limelight. However, he is yet to capture a Spring major – and the superstar jockey knows it would be just that little more special if he could land his first on an Irish-trained runner.
"It would be huge to win it (the Cox Plate) on any horse, but I suppose being an Irish horse, it would be great.
“It would definitely get more attention back in Ireland as well – so I would probably get more recognition back home as well as here.
“The Cox Plate and the Melbourne Cup are the two most iconic races in Australia. They are the two I had heard of before I came out here.”
A northern-hemisphere three-year-old – classified as a four-year-old in Australia – State Of Rest will carry 56.5kg in his attempt to become only the third internationally-trained horse to win the W.S Cox Plate.
And for hard-working Johnny Allen, victory on board the Irish galloper in this year’s Ladbrokes Cox Plate will be richly deserved.