Time finally caught up with Tour Royal.
The diminutive trotting mare with the huge heart has died, age 35, after a long and comfortable retirement in St. Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., owner Jacques Sarrazin said.
A star of Quebec harness racing for more than a decade, Tour Royal made more than 370 starts and won 84 of them, earning about $760,000.
Almost all of the victories came with her regular driver, Serge Turenne. Their remarkable partnership ended with his death in a racing accident at Hippodrome Trois-Rivieres in 2001, age 38.
Despite having to compete in open company at Hippodrome de Montreal for most of her career, Tour Royal (pictured above with Real and Serge Turenne) won at least twice for 12 consecutive years.
Turenne called her "incredible."
He got to drive her because his father, Real, trained the mare for the original owner and breeder, Paul Labonte, from the time she was 18 months old.
She won eight straight races as a two-year-old and was first or second in 12 of 13 starts that year.
"I'd just point her to the lead and challenge them to beat us. Most times, they couldn't get close," Turenne said.
At three, she won the richest sires stake of the year, the Coupe des Eleveurs final. At seven, she set the Hippodrome de Montreal track record for trotting mares.
Tour Royal was not as productive a broodmare as she'd been on the racetrack and Labonte eventually offered her to Sarrazin, who tried breeding her as well, with limited success. One of her foals was named Tourenne, in tribute to her late driver.
The mare lived out her final years at the farm of Xavier Limpens and Josee Morisette, who took exceptional care of her, Sarrazin said. "She was a heck of a mare, and she got the retirement she deserved."
Please join Standardbred Canada in offering condolences to the connections of Tour Royal.
(A Trot Insider Exclusive by Paul Delean)