by Victoria Howard
Many great horsemen (and horsewomen) have called Canada home; such as Joe O’Brien, Jack Kopas, Bill Wellwood, Blair Burgess, Bob McIntosh, Buddy Gilmour, Bill O’Donnell, John Campbell, Clint Hodgins, Ralph Baldwin, Ron Waples, Herve Filion, Michel Lachance, Keith Waples and Ben White. These are just a few for there are many more.
A family from Quebec named Turcotte also left its mark.
“My dad was Ron Turcotte. He was a big, strong, but gentle man whose claim to fame was taking the craziest, uncontrollable horses and manage to get them to the races,” said Marie (Turcotte) Dupont.
Dupont was born in St-Lambert, QC — approximately 15 miles from Blue Bonnet Raceway on the south shore of Montreal.
“My great-grandfather, Felix, and his son, Theo, also talented horsemen, sired six boys named Wayne, Eldon, Theo Jr., Leslie, Melvin and Ron.
“On my mother’s side, my grandmother, Rolande Baillargeon, is the sister to Gaetan Baillargeon (Mario and Ben’s father). Harness racing was definitely a family affair for my mother, Lise Turcotte, drove a horse named OMAHA LUS, which was owned by her father, Oscar Fouriner, and won at the Meadowlands and Freehold.
“My brothers, Dean and Ron Jr., and my sister, Melody, all raced horses at a young age before switching careers.
“I guess you can say I’m the one who took after my father for I started driving horses at the age of 12 and four decades later, I’m still at the barn from morning till night. Guess I was bred to be a horsewoman,” Dupont said, laughing.
Dupont was very close to her father and credits him for teaching her many things, but especially to be respectful and honest.
“My brothers, sister, and I would help dad in the barn cleaning stalls when we were youngsters, and when we got old enough we would jog and train.
“My father was an excellent driver who had many good horses, such as GLEN LOBELL (owned by Lise’s father). GLEN LOBELL was a trotter that was difficult to keep on the track for he was a nervous horse who always tied up (and this was in the ‘80s).
“Dad also broke a lot of 2-year-olds for the New Jersey Sires Stakes. One was a 2-year-old named THEO T, which became a sire after his racing career ended. THEO T produced QUILLO who produced the great KADABRA.
“Another trotter, IRIS DE VADAL, owned by Jean Pierre Dubois, was big and powerful, but quite a handful — thus nobody would want to get behind him — but even back then in the ‘80s he trotted in 1:55.
“Two of dad’s best horses were MEADOW DON and GOLDEN BLEND who excelled racing mostly at Roosevelt Raceway.”
Growing up in the barn area would bring fun and exciting times for Dupont, but the greatest gift of all took place in January of 1993: While working with her father at Pompano Park Racetrack she met the man she would marry and build a successful career with.
“As I would jog my filly, S.O.S. INTRUDER, one particular horseman would make sure to catch up to me so he could chat. The man was Canadian driver/trainer, Donald Dupont, who I would marry six months later.
“After we wed, we moved north, and for part of the summer I would stay with a few horses in New Jersey while Donald would go to Quebec with the others. We did this for a couple of summers and were successful.
“Over the years we have had many good horses, such as SAMMIES GIRL, the daughter of my mare S.O.S. INTRUDER, that won the Delvin Miller in 2000 — which was also my husband’s first driving win — making it a triple, for we were trainer, driver and owner.
“In 1989 my husband owned a horse named LUKE’S OPHELIA who went on to be ‘Filly of the Year’ and the only filly to beat the great TOWN PRO.
“In 2000, Donald and I purchased a 3-year-old trotter called MR. AMOS for $12,000 who went on to win all three Prix De Quebecs. When he was a 4-year-old MR.AMOS beat the horses BELL SHANTY and ANKO ANGUS, and also raced in the Trot Modiale against the great MONI MAKER.
“During the years 1993-2004 we had great success racing in the Quebec circuit with our horses, LUKES ADAMASOU, LUKES CHLOE, NALISE IDEA, TROTTING INTRUDER and TROTTING YANKEE.
“In the later days we had CHECK MATE TIME — a fast Muscle Hill filly that had some issues. Despite her setbacks, CHECK MATE qualified in 1:55.1 (last ¼ in 26.1) as a 2-year-old. After she was timed in 1:51, I purchased her for breeding.
“And there’s 10-year-old HERE COMES WILLIAM, who was born on our farm and is still with us. In 2013, Willy won the consolation of the Metro; and another horse we purchased for $10,000 called DARLINGS DRAGON finished second in the Metro in 2018.
“We have slowed down a bit lately, having only four at this time (one being a beautiful weanling Cantab Hall filly out of CHECK MATE), which makes our days more relaxing and pleasant. We have wanted to slow down and with Pompano Park closing after the 202-2022 meet, it makes our decision for the future easier.
“We’ve been trying to prepare for this time in our lives, which we have built together the last 29 years together as a team. It’s not easy, but the closing of Pompano made the decision to possibly put our farm up for sale.”
Donald and Marie are some of the hardest working people in the business. I’ve turned some of my horses out at their farm and affirm it’s a haven for horses. It’s a small, yet immaculately kept farm, equipped with white PVC fencing and flat paddocks.
“In 2002, Donald and I purchased seven acres of land in Loxahatchee — and I mean WE,” Marie said, laughing.
“We had to clear the land, build the barn, and move into the house we built ourselves in 2005; and worked very hard to get it all done.
My husband is a simple man, but a great guy. He learned a lot about horses from his father, Robert, who was a good driver in the late 50’s in Quebec.
“During the winter months, Donald, Cathy and I are a three-man/woman-team that clean stalls, train horses, and care for the many turnouts we board on a regular basis.
“Cathy Beauchamp (Beach) has been working with us since 2005 and is irreplaceable. She is like our daughter and we are blessed to have her, for good help is very hard to find.
“Donald drives our horses and does a wonderful job. He knows the horses and is very patient, which is very good, especially when breaking babies, and is also a great blacksmith. Working 24 hours a day side-by-side can be difficult to do, but we make it work for he’s the boss in the barn and I’m the boss of the house.”