November 2, 2013
The 79th running of the Montpelier Hunt Races drew a crowd of thousands, many of whom live in Orange County and treat the event like a form of homecoming.
"In Orange they say, 'You might miss Christmas, but you don't miss the races." says Martha Strawther, executive director of the Montpelier Steeplechase Foundation.
The races were started by Marion duPont Scott, who owned the home of former US President James Madison, Montpelier, until her death in 1983.
As Orange County transplant Ralph Graves explains, the tradition of locals attending the races started early.
"When Mrs. duPont Scott owned the property (Montpelier) and started the races, it was free to Orange County residents."
The race is kicked off with a fox hunt, hence the 'hunt' in Montpelier Hunt Races.
As time has gone on, the races have maintained the popularity with locals by maintaining a family friendly atmosphere, by hosting things like the terrier races and stick pony races for the children.
"We prefer Montpelier over some other activities," explains races regular and Greene County School Board member Michelle Flynn, "...because its very reserved, its truly family friends."
This year also marked the 75th anniversary of the first win by an American bred and owned horse in the British Grand National horse race. That horse was named 'Battleship' and was owned by Marion duPont Scott. The win put Montpelier, and Virginia, horse breading on the international map.
For more information about the Montpelier Hunt Races, please click the link below.