Talk to any racetracker for very long and you soon learn they've got a story or two to tell. With a family history steeped in Canadian horseracing, Maureen Allen is no exception. Born and raised in Canada, Allen is the daughter of Thoroughbred trainers John and Sonia (Rosebud) Allen, the latter of whom became one of the first female trainers licensed in Canada in the 1940s. It was no surprise, then, that after growing up on the backside of the racetrack, Allen became a trainer herself in 1974, purchasing her first racehorse out of a yearling sale the previous year.
That filly, Craigdina, went on to run second in the B. C. Futurity and third in the Debutante at Exhibition Park in Vancouver. With that, Allen's training career was off and running. Over the years she trained numerous horses, both for herself and for clients, including British Columbia champion filly Bronze Duchess.
Naturally, every trainer is going to have his or her favorite horse (or horses). It might be the one that started their career or got them their biggest win, or it could be one that had a great personality or enjoyed a long and productive career. For Allen, it was a small gelding named Regal Pursuit who did not have “first” or “best” status for any type of racing-related statistic. Rather, he earned his place as her heart-horse simply by being his quirky, spooky, yet personable self, and while he's never donned a saddle since he retired from racing nearly 30 years ago, he's solidified his place as a horse of a lifetime for her.
Allen cares for 31-year-old Regal Pursuit, along with his pasture mate, Waldo (who we featured last year) at her farm on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada, and says that while he may not display quite the level of antics that he did in his younger years, his personality still abounds.
“I bought him on the cuff 30 years ago from his breeders,” said Allen. “They'd put him in a yearling sale, but with his small stature and terribly crooked mouth, he did not get one bid. He was very spooky, too. He was the toughest little horse to school to a bridle and saddle, as even lying across his back would set off a huge bucking bronco fit.”
Allen eventually worked through Regal Pursuit's issues, so much so that by the time he got to the racetrack, the riders loved him, and he quickly became the barn favorite, even though he was far from the “steady-Eddie” type of horse.
“Even though he was spooky and afraid of everything, he would trust you. I admired that courage,” said Allen. “He might see something and brace his legs, but he would then look at you, take a deep breath and seem to say, 'OK, if you say so I'll do it, even though I'm scared stiff.' The girls at the track loved him and thought his crooked nose made him look so cute. He had this 'stepping right out stride' and a swing in his hips.”
Regal Pursuit only made four starts for Allen, finishing second and third once each, but never achieving a win. It was after the racing season in 1990 when Regal Pursuit was turned out for the winter that he took a step that would change his life.
“He stepped in a hole (in his pasture) and had some ankle swelling. I never took him back to the track after that because I knew he would try so hard he might break down,” she said. “For the last 29 years I've just loved him daily, never asking him to perform at anything.”
Like most horses in their 30s, Regal Pursuit shows the effects of old age, including having lost many of his teeth. To ensure he gets the nutrients he needs, Allen feeds him a mix of soaked beet pulp and alfalfa pellets five times a day, along with Senior Matrix pellets, HiFat pellets and Recovery EQ EX Strength top-dressed with a bit of Guinness in the morning and evening.
“The daily Guinness started when I noticed a very pink tinge in his urine and wondered what I could do. I thought of Guinness as an iron supplement and knew it's often given to horses in Ireland and even to Zenyatta,” said Allen. “All I know is his urine cleared up and he and Waldo have shiny coats and will eat absolutely anything, even wormer or Bute, as long as it has Guinness mixed in.”
As Regal Pursuit advanced in age it became apparent that he suffered from kissing spine, a degenerative condition in which the spinous processes (the pieces of bone sticking up from each vertebra) touch or rub against each other. While it was of no concern that he could never be ridden, Allen has ensured Regal Pursuit has whatever he needs to stay comfortable, including giving him daily massages across his back. She keeps Regal Pursuit and his pasture-mate, Waldo, in during extreme weather or temperatures and even had a small sand pit put in their paddock so they would have a soft place to roll.
“I figure I owe it to him to keep him and do whatever I can to give him the best life possible, especially now in his old age. I never thought of all of the ones I've trained or owned, he would outlive them all,” said Allen. “He ran once as a 2-year-old and three times as a 3-year-old, earning $1,682, but to me his life is far more valuable!”
Name: REGAL PURSUIT
Born: May 25, 1987
Sire: Regal Companion
Dam: Loisbelle, by Ocean Quest
Sale History: none
Race Earnings: $1,682
Jen Roytz is a marketing, publicity and comprehensive communications specialist based in Lexington, Kentucky and was recently named the Executive Director of the Retired Racehorse Project. A native of Cleveland, Ohio, her professional focus lies in the fields of equine, health care, corporate and non-profit marketing. She is the go-to food source for one dog, two cats and two off-track Thoroughbreds.
Email Jen your story ideas at [email protected]or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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