Last weekend, my dog and I went to Grand Falls/Grand-Sault in northern New Brunswick to see a statue unveiled. It is Ron Turcotte and Secretariat crossing the finish line at the Belmont Stakes in 1973 and thereby winning the Triple Crown.
As you cross the falls on the Ron Turcotte Bridge heading to the town’s centre, the statue is the first thing you see in the middle of the beautiful Broadway Boulevard. New Brunswick artist Yves Thériault made it, and it is magnificent.
In an article I read, M. Thériault said he wanted to convey the sense of the race itself, that moment of victory. How can you do that in bronze, I wondered. He did it. The long narrow dirt-filled base is the track, with M. Turcotte’s career wins and awards engraved on the sides. Beside Secretariat, the finish line tower shows the time (2:24). Crouched over his neck, Ron Turcotte looks back to unseen horses, way way back.
The monument was under wraps of course, and the wrap was Secretariat’s blue and white checkerboard. The statue was unveiled by little kids dressed in The Meadow’s silks, complete with boots and helmets. During the removal of the cover, the actual race call played over loudspeakers. That was a truly inspired moment of theatre.
Ron Turcotte, his wife Gaétane, children and grandchildren and his brothers and sisters were all there. Horse racing dignitaries were there, fans from all over Canada and the US and hometown people celebrating their own local hero. A lovely message of congratulations from Secretariat’s owner Penny Chenery was read out.
It was a party, with cake and plush-toy Secretariats. Everyone wanted to talk with M. Turcotte and have their picture taken with him. As he headed to the tent from the statue, he kindly stopped to allow me to take a photo of him with my dog Leo.
In the tent, he signed autographs on small cards and large posters. He signed the glass of large framed prints for people who cared enough to lug them all the way there. For me, he signed a photograph of another dog of ours standing beside the Secretariat statue at the Kentucky Horse Park. That truly made the day complete for me.
I stopped at the Falls on my way out of town. I couldn’t quite see the statue from there. Probably in winter, when there are no leaves on the trees, you’ll be able to. I didn’t stop at the town’s museum across the road, but I wish I had. M. Turcotte’s riding boots and goggles are on display.
Leo and I enjoyed our stay at the Motel Leo. Lovely people and a fine room. Merci.
See Secretariat: The movie for the picture I had autographed and my thoughts on the movie.
Also see my Turcotte, the movie for more on the excellent 2013 NFB film Secretariat’s Jockey about Ron Turcotte’s life and horse racing career.