Day At The Track

A wonderful reunion for two old friends

05:14 AM 15 Jan 2016 NZDT
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Bob Tourangeau Terrys Star Dragon
Bob Tourangeau and Terrys Star Dragon saw each other for the first time in six years in 2015 at Pompano Park.
Bob Tourangeau Photo
Terrys Star Dragon has won 56 of 219 races and earned $496,599.

Trenton, NJ --- For those who don’t enjoy tears in their eyes or a lump in their throat, find another story. In providing full disclosure, the saga of harness racing owner Bob Tourangeau and his horse, Terrys Star Dragon, will pull at the heartstrings of anyone who understands a human-animal relationship.

In a nutshell, Tourangeau successfully urged one of his mares to remain in labor for an extra 15 minutes in order to have a colt born on his daughter’s birthday. This obviously special horse had tremendous success his first two years and, for his own good, the owner sadly sold Terrys Star Dragon at age 3.

Further triumphs and an emotional one-day reunion between Tourangeau and Terrys Star Dragon followed, until the horse fell off the radar. His former owner tracked him down, recently re-purchased him, brought him back to Maine and will spend a year getting the 11-year-old in shape before he returns to try and reach $500,000 in career earnings.

It’s the kind of stuff old-time after-school kids specials were made of.

It all began at 11:45 p.m. on April 7, 2005. Tourangeau’s mare My Radiant Star was in labor and there were 15 minutes remaining until the calendar turned to April 8. That happened to be the birthday of Tourangeau’s late daughter, Terri, who passed away in 1984.

“I sat there with my mare and I said ‘Don’t you dare,’” said Tourangeau, now 77. “I was standing outside the stall and I’m saying ‘Hold on, hold on, you can’t do this thing until after 12 o’clock,’ because it had to foaled on the 8th.

“I suppose I didn’t have to be melodramatic about it, but I didn’t want to be caught in the situation of him not being born on the 8th. That would have been the first time we would have had a horse born at the same time as one of the family members.”

My Radiant Star and her colt obliged as he came out at 12:08 a.m. on April 8. Bob then had the pleasant duty of telling his three teenage granddaughters that they had a simple chore to perform.

“We had them try to name horses for us,” Tourangeau said. “I said ‘This one will be easy for you, the horse was born on Terri’s birthday.’ They came back the next day and said ‘That was easy.’”

They changed the I to Y in order to avoid gender confusion. Star came from his mare’s name, while Sweet Dragon was his father.

Terry not only shared Terri’s birthday, he showed all the characteristics of a future star.

“He was described by a trainer when he came out for his first qualifier as A-Rod,” said Tourangeau. “That’s because he’s such an athletic specimen. It was a great way to compare him to Alex Rodriguez because he was the perfect specimen of muscle, size, great conformation. He just looked the part.”

Terrys Star Dragon wasted little time setting the tracks of New England ablaze. Trained and driven by Mike Graffam, he won six of nine races and $37,530 at age 2, and won 13 of 14 races and $96,514 at age 3, when he was the Maine Standardbred Breeders Stakes champion.

Tourangeau attended every race and displayed his love and devotion by enrolling the horse in the Full Circle program, which provides contact information to the USTA to be shared in the event the horse can no longer be cared for by its owner or is in imminent need of assistance.

But after Terrys Star Dragon’s second season, Tourangeau had to make the toughest decision of his Standardbred career. He and Graffam sold the horse in order to get him better races.

“We wanted to give him an opportunity to race at a level we thought he could handle,” Tourangeau said. “He was only going to get better. He was a big, strong athletic horse who never missed a start. The most difficult aspect for me is that I’m on the board of the Maine (Standardbred) Breeders and Owners Association, and we want to keep the best horses in the state of Maine.”

Part of true love, however, is giving the one you love what is best for them, regardless of how badly it hurts.

“That was a very tough decision,” Tourangeau said. “It was probably the toughest decision of all.”

It was the right decision for the horse’s sake, as Terrys Star Dragon raced 196 times after being sold. He has currently won 56 of 219 races and earned $496,599. After selling the horse, Tourangeau watched every one of Terrys Star Dragon’s races on the Internet.

Last April, Bob went down to see his grandson, Benjamin, in Florida and decided to drop in and see Terrys Star Dragon at Pompano Park. He had not seen the horse in seven years and, since he left Maine, Tourangeau believes no one called him Terry.

“They had a nickname for him,” Tourangeau said. “I didn’t realize it. It never occurred to me.”

When Bob and his wife entered the stable, the horse had his back to the entrance. Suddenly, a voice he had not heard was calling him a name he had not been called in seven years. How strong was the bond?

“He came right over,” Tourangeau said. “That was the first time I’d seen him since we sold him in 2008. I was crying when he came over. I have a lump in my throat right now just talking about it. The fact that he responded to that name is, well, they say they never forget. He was an imprinted foal. I did the imprinting.”

Saying goodbye was excruciating, as Bob wondered if he would ever see him again. He almost wanted to buy him back that day but thought better of it.

Shortly thereafter, he did not see Terrys Star Dragon racing anywhere. It turned out the gelding had dropped a suspensory, which was the first injury of his career and led to a layoff. Tourangeau tracked down the owners, brokered a deal and bought his old friend. A network of folks then jumped in to help shuttle the horse back to Maine, where he arrived on Dec. 12.

“I have to thank everyone who made this possible,” Tourangeau said. “Our horse community is genuinely a large family.”

Graffam will return to train the horse as they take aim on the half-million dollar mark.

“I put him back in his old stall,” Tourangeau said. “For the next half hour, the horse never looked at me, all he did was eat. I just talked to him, rubbed his neck and just watched him relax in his old home.”

A very special couple reunited once more.

by Rich Fisher, USTA Web Newsroom Senior Correspondent 

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