Flying Fences at Montpelier

Memories of Marion duPont Scott and the hunt races at her Montpelier estate.
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Memories of Marion duPont Scott and the hunt races at her Montpelier estate.

It had been almost a decade since the death of Marion duPont Scott, but her spirit was felt on November 5, 1994, when the Montpelier Hunt Races celebrated the sixtieth running on the Virginia estate where Mrs. Scott lived. Horsemen felt her presence, her stern gaze assessing the field, looking for any as good as the runners who once carried her sky blue, pink, and gray colors.

One of the greatest of those is buried at Montpelier--Battleship, the diminutive son of Man o' War who became the first American horse to win England's Grand National.

The sedate, white-pillared mansion at Montpelier and the estate where the races are run had belonged to President James Madison, but horsemen remember it as Mrs. Scott's home, the place where she raised some of the finest racehorses in the country and spent many happy years tending her elaborate gardens. The estate, which has been in the duPont family since l900, passed to the National Trust for Historic Preservation after Mrs. Scott's death in 1983.

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 l934 Maryland Hunt Cup. Defending his title in the 1935 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.