It has been a quick transition from race fan to top official and now an Island man will take the next step up to the biggest racetrack in the nation.
Dylan Allain, 32, is currently serving as paddock judge at Red Shores at the Charlottetown Driving Park and will preside over keeping all horses and participants orderly for the rest of Old Home Week just as he has all season. But next week will be his last on P.E.I., as he has accepted a job as assistant race secretary at the Woodbine Entertainment Group in Toronto where he will take entries and put together race programs for Woodbine Mohawk Park in Milton, Ont., and Rideau Carleton Raceway outside Ottawa.
Allain will make the move with wife Jenny and seven-year-old daughter Marley.
“I have always been a numbers guy,” Allain explains. “Even when I was young the race program was the most fascinating thing about horse racing. Some people really liked the horses, but I was scared of them when I was a kid, so I really got into the numbers. Learning to be a charter and then a judge and now stepping into a race secretary position I think will be a really good fit.”
His transition from fan started in 2015, when Allain spoke with racing experience manager Adam Walsh about taking over the charting position at Red Shores at the Summerside Raceway, where he is responsible for writing down the position and how far back each horse is for the duration of the race. He then indicated an interest in becoming a judge with the Atlantic Provinces Harness Racing Commission and stepping into that role part-time in Charlottetown. Then when the job of jaddock judge was left vacant by longtime resident George (Butch) Ward, Allain became one of two people trained for the job, which he took over full time at the capital oval this season.
As paddock judge, Allain is responsible for each horse being in the race paddock on time two races before their race, checking their equipment and tattoos and having them leave the paddock for post parade at the correct time.
“There are quite a few rules that you don’t realize until you’re a judge or if you were a participant,” Allain said. “As a fan, you don’t really pay attention to all different racing rules and bad lines and that kind of stuff. A lot of these inquiries are very tight and could really go either way. There are three judges and everyone has to give their opinion. You might be the one who feels very strongly one way and the other two go the other way and you have to live with it. Majority rules.”
He credits his step-father Jack Keenan for starting his love of the sport around the Matheson stable of Ron and Jackie in Charlottetown.
“I was always a fan of horse racing. Even when I moved away for school I was always followed along and kept on top of the results.”
Allain currently works during the week at Canada Post, but had his last day after eight years last week. He now prepares to make the jump to the biggest circuit in the country to work under Woodbine race secretary Scott McKelvie.
“We had a few conversations back and forth and decided it would be a good fit,” Allain said of speking with McKelvie about the position. “Brett Revington (director of the Atlantic Provinces Harness Racing Commission) really got the ball rolling for me. He used to work with a lot of these people. It was always a dream of mine to work full time in horse racing. Woodbine Entertainment is the big times, so it was a no-brainer for me. We’ll see how it goes.”
Allain is excited to make the move but admits he will miss his home province.
“I moved away for school for four years but other than that I’ve lived here my whole life and Jenny has lived here her whole life. I’ll be back for Old Home Week next year. Hopefully.”
Nicholas Oakes is covering harness racing at Old Home Week for The Guardian, culminating with the Gold Cup and Saucer on Saturday. This is his 10th year covering Old Home Week for the news outlet.