Jockey Charlie Allen Loses 85 Pounds to Ride and Help a Friend
Charlie Allen Before and After Getting in Race Riding Shape
Jockey Charlie Allen has had quite a journey and quite a busy few months. Folks here in the Northwest might remember Charlie as a rider who got started here in the Northwest back in the late 1980’s. Allen, 41, was born in Salem and grew up around race horses, primarily visiting the farm of long time Quarter Horse trainer Jim Glenn Jr. who won several Quarter Horse training titles at Portland Meadows and other tracks and has in recent years gone on to train at Los Alamitos, the Quarter Horse center of the America.
“When I was 12 or 13 I started going to Jimmy’s house and breaking babies for him,” said Allen. “I basically hung out at the Glenn Farm until I turned 16 and I went to Yakima Meadows, where I rode my first horse for trainer Jim Fields.”
After Yakima concluded that spring, Allen came to Portland Meadows and won his first race aboard Pete’s Scepter in 1987. Allen then took his tack to Southern California and also raced on the Northern California Fairs, until his body started to limit his opportunities.
“I turned 18 and I just got too big to ride,” said Allen. “It was then that I had to switch from riding Thoroughbreds to Quarter Horses, and started riding first call for Jimmy Glenn Jr.”
Allen rode for Glenn and other trainers for a number of years, racing and winning various Quarter Horse trials, Derbies, and Futurities. Allen continued riding for a number of years on the Northwest Quarter Horse circuits, until a new opportunity and his weight finally forced him to retire.
“In 1994 I just got too big to ride,” said Allen. “Plus I got my first job in the car business, which has turned out to be a wonderful career.”
Allen was in the car business for ten years and pretty much thought that riding was in his rearview mirror, as he had gained weight and was tipping the scales at 200 pounds, well above the 125 or so pounds you need to be at to ride Quarter Horses. Then came a call from his old friend Jim Glenn Jr.
Jim Glenn Jr. had been campaigning an eight year old veteran Quarter Horse named In Search of Fame who had dominated Quarter Horse Racing at Portland Meadows from 1998 all the way until 2004 for Glenn and his owner/breeders Dave and Leah Nelson.
“In Search of Fame was one win away from setting a record for having the most wins by a horse at a single track in Quarter Horse history,” said Allen.
So Glenn told Allen he wanted him to ride In Search of Fame at Portland Meadows to get that win. Allen dropped seventy pounds in just four months to get down to weight, and on April 23, 2004, he and In Search of Fame scored an easy allowance win which was the 25th career score for In Search of Fame at Portland Meadows, giving him the record for most wins by a Quarter Horse at any single track ever.
“I was going to retire again after that,” said Allen. “But I got a call from Grants Pass and they were short of riders, so I went down there.”
Allen suffered an injury at Grants Pass when a horse he was riding flipped over on him, breaking his arm, and at the time he thought, ending his career.
“I went back in to retirement,” said Allen. “I’ve been working here at Shortline Automotive in Denver ever since and am the New Car Sales Manager.”
Charlie Allen had moved on from his racing past, and was content with his new life in Denver and his career until April of this year, when once again, he got a phone call from an old friend.
“Chris and Ron Sutton called me and said they had a two year old who they were going to be running in trials at Portland Meadows this summer,” said Allen. “Chris told me the horse was named after his Grandmother and if they could get anyone to ride this horse, that they wanted it to be me, and asked If I’d be able to ride.”
Allen had ballooned up to 215 pounds so getting to riding weight would require him to lose 85 pounds in roughly four and a half months. Allen met up with John Grant Jr. who is one of the top Lacrosse players in the world, and Grant told Allen to talk with his trainer Joel Raether, who is a trainer for the Denver Avalanche NHL team as well as the Denver Mammoth Lacrosse team.
“Joel is the best of the best,” said Allen. “I remember meeting with him and seeing all these NCAA Championship rings from colleges he’d worked with, it was amazing.”
So Allen and Raether got to work on a special diet and exercise program that Raether laid out for Charlie to drop the weight he needed to be able to ride by September.
“Joel put me on a protein diet,” said Allen. “I’d have 3 egg whites and a spoonful of salsa for breakfast. Then two hours later I’d have 4 ounces of roasted chicken with no skin and a green vegetable. Two hours after that I got 4 oz. red meat with a single green vegetable. Then at 3:30 I’d have one spoonful of peanut butter. At 5 or 6 o’clock my dinner would be white fish and green vegetable. Then I’d have my workout and then one cup of cottage cheese with a spoonful of all natural jelly.”
That was the routine, day after day for four months. Allen would wake up at 5:00AM, go in to the gym and train with Raether. Then go work at the car dealership until 9 or 10pm at night. Then head to the gym to go do 45 minutes to an hour of cardio exercise. Then head home, sleep for 4 or 5 hours and get up and do it again. And the extra weight flew off his body.
“I would call him all the time during this weight loss to see how he was doing,” said Chris Sutton. “I’d update him on how the horse was doing and I think that kept him motivated.”
“There were times during the training and diet that I thought about quitting,” said Allen. “But whenever that happened I would pull out all my old win pictures and those gave me the encouragement I needed to keep going.”
Allen dropped the necessary weight and on September 16th, he showed up at Portland Meadows weighing 130 pounds and got on board Grammys Spitfire for the Sutton’s and trainer Nick Lowe in the Far West Futurity Trials.
“She didn’t know what was going on,” said Allen. “She stumbled and made up a lot of ground and went by the horses pretty well by the end and finished fourth.”
Grammys Spitfire qualified sixth fastest and has earned a spot in the gate for $10,000 Far West Futurity Finals, which goes to post as the second race on Sunday September 30th.
“I’ve known Charlie since I was born and I was dead serious when I asked him to ride my horse, even though he was 215 pounds at the time,” said Chris Sutton. “I wanted someone I trusted to ride her first time out, someone who would take care of her. Charlie’s one of my best friends in the world and there aren’t a lot of true friends who will do something like that for you.”
Even though Allen and Grammys Spitfire didn’t win in their first start, he’s optimistic of her future.
“She’s one of the nicest horses I’ve ever ridden in my life,” said Allen. “She’s pretty special and their family is pretty special to me. I’m hoping we can take her to the Baxter Andruss Oregon Futurity later in the meet.”
Charlie Allen seems to be enjoying being back in the saddle and picked up his first winner in 8 years this past Sunday when he won for trainer Scott Nance aboard Yeppers.
“This really has been an amazing journey,” said Allen. “My boss at Shortline Motors has been so accommodating as well, because people in the car industry don’t give you time off, including weekends off to pursue things like this. They have been so supportive to me and I’m thrilled to be back riding.”
Charlie Allen and Yeppers