Women in Racing – Marion duPont Scott
America’s First Lady of Racing
Every place has its traditions and for Orange County, VA one major tradition dates back more than 80 years. On the first Saturday in November a premier event is held and you can guarantee many from near and far take part. This exceptionally popular event is known as The Montpelier Hunt Races. It is endorsed by the National Steeplechase Association and includes a full day of exciting races, sumptuous vendors, and lavish tailgating. One does not have to be a horse enthusiast to enjoy the day. The Montpelier Hunt Races welcomes ALL for a day filled with history and homage.
Montpelier was the former home of President, James Madison and has a long history with steeplechase racing – showcasing prized national and international horses. It is one of the most prestigious sites for steeplechase in North America all because of one very remarkable woman. This woman was named Marion duPont Scott. Marion duPont Scott contributed significantly to the development and prosperity of steeplechasing in the United States. Especially noteworthy for women in her time, she accomplished this by doing things her own way.
In 1901, William duPont and his family purchased the Montpelier estate. Over time they made changes to the property such as adding wings to the house and enlarging the stables. William duPont’s daughter Marion duPont eventually inherited the property from her parents and continued to reside at Montpelier until her death in 1983. Throughout the years Marion became a very accomplished horsewoman because she competed, bred, and trained thoroughbred horses at Montpelier. She was the first woman to win a class in the 1915 National Horse Show at Madison Square Garden while riding astride and not sidesaddle.
Marion duPont oversaw the transformation of Montpelier into a first-class thoroughbred breeding and racing facility with the help of her brother William duPont Jr. They built a state-of-the-art steeplechase course and a flat training track which would become the home of the Montpelier Races in 1929. She opened the races up to the public for all to enjoy and never thought of charging admission. Marion ran the races on her own front lawn for many years, and in 1934, the National Steeplechase Association officially sanctioned the Montpelier Hunt Races.
Marion duPont bred and trained a series of excellent thoroughbred bloodlines that went on to become winners. In 1932, her horse Trouble Maker won the Maryland Hunt Cup, regarded as America’s most challenging timber race, and in 1938, her horse Battleship, a son of Man o’ War, became the first American bred and owned horse to win the British Grand National Steeplechase. Other winners campaigned under her french blue, old rose and silver colors were Mongo, Accra and Annapolis – another son of Man o’ War. She had 363 career wins and her winnings totaled almost $12 million dollars.
After all Marion duPont’s great achievements it is no surprise, she was named 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 will continue on with the running of the Montpelier Hunt Races for many years ahead.