Published: November 6, 2021 11:30 am EDT
Nobody will be sorrier than Jessica Turenne to see the end of the 2021 season at Hippodrome 3R.
The 25-year-old has come into her own in recent weeks as a driver at the Quebec track where her late father Serge made his name and is still remembered fondly, 20 years after his death in a racing spill at age 38.
With two Sunday cards remaining, she’s climbed to ninth in the Hippodrome 3R driver standings with 14 wins in 94 starts. The past two programs, she’s visited the winner’s circle twice.
Not bad at all for a driver who won her first professional race at the track in mid-June.
“Unforgettable,” is how Turenne described her rookie year. “I could not have asked for more.”
She’d won races on Quebec’s fair circuit as far back as 2014, but had shelved the dream of competing on a larger stage like her dad, who won 1,200 races.
Jessica Turenne winning at Saint-Esprit in 2017
Encouragement from others after she won a fair-circuit final last year rekindled the flame.
“I wanted to give it a try, hopefully have fun. If it didn’t work out, I’d go back to being a groom, which I’ve done since I was a kid.”
She took the written exam and drove in one qualifier last year, then drove in nine more this year to get her licence. It was slow going at first, but after her breakthrough win with Blue Moose, more opportunities and better horses started coming her way.
She’s now won four in a row with pacer Like Lightning Lou after getting the call from trainer Dany Fontaine, whose stable is in the barn where she works as a groom. Two weeks ago, she scored a 56-1 upset from Post 9 with pacer Free Proof.
She’s also won twice with her own horse, Shanghai Phil gelding Angelo Benjo, and another she co-owns with Yannick Martel, The Real McCoy.
“The first win was obviously special, but when it’s your own horse, it’s even better,” she said.
Turenne said she considered trying her hand at Rideau Carleton Raceway when the Trois-Rivieres season ends, but ultimately decided to stay put and prepare for next year. “As long as my luck holds, I’ll be there,” she said.