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Onyx VA To Retire Sunday

Published: November 21, 2020 12:34 pm ET

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Over the years, the Quebec Jockey Club at Hippodrome 3R has made a point of celebrating the retirement of certain Standardbreds that have reached the ripe old age of 14. This has always been done on closing day for the track, which is this Sunday, November 22.

All Standardbred race horses must retire on January 1 at age 15. They are still allowed to race but only in amateur and fair events.

But this year, the ceremony will take on a special significance for several reasons. The horse being recognized, Onyx VA, has only participated for one owner over his harness racing career -- André Larocque of Lourdes-De-Joliette.

This horse raced at 3R for nine of his 12 seasons; it started at 3R and will end this Sunday, November 22.

Larocque shared some of his favourite memories:

“There is this race at Rideau Carleton in 2014 with Kyle Forgie in the sulky and a victory in the best class in 1:54.3 from post seven; better still, his mile at 3R, the same year, this time with Stéphane Brosseau, a victory in 1:53.4.

“At two years old, he had a very fruitful year,” Larocque explained, “successively winning three stakes (two Quebec Elite series, one Quebec Plus series) with Daniel Potvin on the guides. Daniel was my blacksmith at the time, and what a job he did with the colt. These were his three highest paying races in his career, twice for purses of $35,000, once for $25,000. The rest of his life he spent raising a thousand dollars here and there. Small grants in overnites. If you look at his record now, he took 293 starts and made just over $300,000, which works out to $1,000 per start. An iron horse."

It was at the turn of the 2000s that André decided to try his luck in breeding, by acquiring a mare, Better Than Good, by The Big Dog. A mare who had never raced but whose family was full of big names: Die Laughing, Dexter Nukes, Silent Majority. This mare, bred to Artist Stena, first produced Mamzele Leopold ($40,000 and a record of 1:56), but the filly was plagued with conformation issues.

The second breeding, this time with Electric Stena (Cam Fella), provided him with the colt that became Onyx VA.

"Then the mare didn't give much,” Larocque added. “A few raced, some didn't. But Onyx VA was going to make people forget all that, he was so handsome, efficient and very intelligent. My role, week after week, was to find him a class that would do him justice. After the Quebec racetracks closed, I had no choice but to have him race in Ontario and he excelled on all kinds of tracks, in all kinds of conditions: Rideau, Flamboro, Grand River, London, Woodbine. He had some health problems, but never to prevent him from coming back to the track. He made me very happy, to say the least.

“Sunday will be his last start,” Larocque said. “I have no plans to go anywhere else next. This is where it all began and this is where it all ends. He will be entitled to a peaceful, deserved retirement. He has his stall, his paddock, his routine and he will now be at rest. For my part, I don't know what the future holds.

“I am 69 years old,” Larocque said. “And have had my fair share of health issues over the past few months. My hips make it difficult for me to move around, and it is no whim that I asked Claude Beausoleil to take on the role of trainer for the last few weeks. If ever my health allows me, I will not say no to a possible return with another horse. For the moment, my concerns are elsewhere.

“I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank everyone who has helped me over the past twelve years with my horse,” Larocque added. “There are stable neighbors, trainers, drivers, lots of people who made this 'trip' with Onyx VA possible. Thank you everyone from the heart."

Onyx VA will start on Sunday's seventh race. This will be his 294th start, and he has recorded 47 career victories. At the end of his race, Claude Beausoleil will lead him to the winner's circle for a small ceremony to officially mark the end of his racing career.

Track Notes: Racing fans can get a free race program for Sunday by visiting First race post time Sunday is 1:00 pm. Simulcasting will continue seven days a week at 3R and all of its OTB outlets in Quebec. Also, on Sunday there are three Preferred events for the trotters and pacers. For the fourth straight year, Francis Richard will take top honors as the leading trainer. The leading driver battle continues into Sunday with Pascal Berube (who is not driving Sunday) holds a four-win lead, 52 to 48, over Stephane Brosseau, who has eight drives on the program.

To view the entries for Sunday's card, click the following link: Sunday Entries - Hippodrome 3R.

(with files from the Quebec Jockey Club)

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