Saturday, October 4, 2008
Montpelier Hunt Races
It has been more than two decades since the death of Marion duPont Scott, but her spirit will be honored on November 1, 2008, when the Montpelier Hunt Races celebrate the seventy-fourth running on the grounds of the Montpelier estate where she lived.
Marion duPont Scott, a horsewoman through and through, was most notably a successful breeder of race horses. One of the greatest of those is buried at Montpelier – Battleship, who was the diminutive son of Man o' War. Battleship became the first American horse to win England's Grand National Steeplechase. A month later, when Battleship returned to New York City aboard a ship, mayor LaGuardia welcomed him along with actor Randolph Scott (Marion’s husband), who interrupted filming a movie in Hollywood to join the celebration. Mrs. Scott promised if Battleship won the Grand National he would never race again, and she was true to her word. He retired to stud at Montpelier and is buried there. Guests can visit his grave, alongside two of Mrs. Scott’s other famous horses, Annapolis and Accura.
Regarded by many as America's First Lady of Racing, Marion duPont Scott generously supported the equine industry throughout her life. She donated funds to construct Virginia's leading equine medical center in Leesburg, which is named in her honor. Her legacy continues with the running of the Montpelier Races, a premier event on the national Steeplechase Association's circuit, which is always held on the first Saturday in November.
When the Noel Laing Handicap Stakes is run, some remember the Virginia-born jockey and Mrs. Scott's Trouble Maker, Laing's winning mount in the l932 Maryland Hunt Cup. In the l935 running, Trouble Maker had a fatal fall at the seventeenth fence. Laing was heartbroken and stayed at the fence until his mount was buried. When Mrs. Scott returned to Montpelier, she tore down all her timber fences and ordered that no horse of hers would ever race over timber again.
Mrs. Scott, who had started The Montpelier Hunt Races in 1924, thus developed a hurdle course featuring the only live brush jumps in the Commonwealth of Virginia.