Elfriede Stronach, Frieda to the Thoroughbred community, passed away in Canada on March 25 at the age of 80, according to a report in the Austrian news outlet Kleine Zeitung.

As one of the first ladies of Canadian horse racing as owner of Stronach Stables and Adena Springs with her husband, billionaire Frank Stronach, the news came as a shock to the racing world.

Born Elfriede Sallmutter in Weiz, Styria, she met her husband-to-be on a skiing trip and they have been together for 60 years. The couple have two children, Andrew and Belinda, and three grandchildren. Frieda was very much involved in her husband’s love for horse racing, which included hundreds of mares producing stakes winners all over the world from farms in Aurora, ON, Lexington, KY and Ocala, FL.

Frieda and Frank Stronach with The Queen at the races.

Frieda and Frank Stronach with Her Majesty The Queen after Awesome Again won the Queen’s Plate. (Woodbine photo)

Frieda, who preferred to stay out of the spotlight, was always described as graceful, down-to-earth and reserved with a deep love of horses. Whether it was including hundreds of barn staff to help name the young horses, planning matings, or cheering on their homebreds at the track, Frieda was keen on racing and breeding.

The Stronachs have bred hundreds of champions and stakes winners, collected dozens of awards and operated racetracks throughout the United States. With Frank and Belinda both active in the business world and politics over the years, Frieda kept closer to the Aurora homebase, the sprawling farm near Frank’s Magna autoparts conglomerate.

In 2004, Frieda started the Adena Springs Retirement program at the Aurora farm which focused on re-training the farm’s retired racehorses. Frieda would carefully scrutinize applications from prospective, adoptive owners before placing the horses.

There were rough waters for the Stronach family in recent years, in particular when Frank and Frieda sued their daughter Belinda and eventually had to split the businesses so that the horses and farms stayed with Frank and Frieda while Belinda took over the racetracks.

In recent years, Frieda was often seen at Woodbine with farm manager Sean Smullen and others, cheering on an Adena Springs runner.

The sport of horse racing in Ontario and throughout the world will certainly miss Frieda Stronach.