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Marion duPont Scott

Painting of Marion duPont Scott

Marion duPont Scott, the daughter of William duPont and Annie Rogers duPont, spent her early childhood at Binfield Park, Berkshire, England. She was the great-granddaughter of Eluthere Irenee duPont of Wilmington, Delaware, the founder of the duPont Company. Her father, William duPont, was for many years president of the Delaware Trust Company.

Scott lived at Montpelier, Orange County, Virginia, from the early 1900s when her father acquired the property formerly owned by U.S. President James Madison. She also maintained a residence, Holly Hedge, in Camden, South Carolina, where she organized and operated the Camden Training Center for stabling and training thoroughbred horses. Two of the premier steeplechase races in America, the Carolina Cup and the Colonial Cup, are run each year on her Springdale Course in Camden. A former residence owned by Scott, Meadow Woods, near Wilmington, Delaware, was given to the Delaware Museum of Natural History in 1980.

While growing up at Montpelier, Scott became interested in farming activities, particularly in the breeding and raising of horses and other livestock  At first, her primary interest was in ponies, saddlebred, and hackney horses, and she was the first woman to ride astride in horse show competition at Madison Square Garden. Later, she became interested in hunting horses and established the Montpelier Hounds, of which she was the master for many years. She then became interested in the breeding, training, and raising of thoroughbred horses.

In 1934, Scott and her brother, William duPont Jr., established the Montpelier Races, which are run each fall at Montpelier. For many years, Scott was the hostess for these races, sanctioned by the National Steeplechase and Hunt Association, of which she was honorary chair. One of Scott’s most famous horses was Battleship, sired by the great Man O’War. After winning the Grand National Steeplechase Handicap at Belmont Park in 1934, as well as other notable races in America. In 1938, Battleship became the first American-bred and American-owned horse to win the Grand National Steeplechase at Aintree, England. Retired to stud at Montpelier with Annapolis, another stallion by Man O’War, Battleship sired many outstanding horses.

In later years, Scott became more interested in flat racing and bred and developed Mongo, a son of Royal Charger out of her foundation mare, Accra. Among other races, Mongo won the Washington, D.C., International at Laurel Park, Maryland, and the United Nations Handicap at Atlantic City, New Jersey, in two successive years. In 1963, he was declared the Champion Grass Horse of America and, after having won purses in excess of $800,000, was retired to stud at Blue Ridge Farm near Upperville, Virginia, where he stood as a successful sire until his death in early 1983.

In 1972, Scott received the Eclipse Award for developing the year's champion steeplechase horse, Soothsayer. She received a second Eclipse Award in 1977 for developing the year's champion racing mare, Proud Delta. She was the recipient of the Thoroughbred Breeders of Kentucky Award in 1973, and was selected by The National Turf Writers Association in 1981 as recipient of the Joe Palmer Award for meritorious service and outstanding achievement in racing.

An active member of the Dolly Madison Garden Club and The Garden Club of Virginia, Scott had a great interest in horticulture and maintained lovely gardens at Montpelier, which she personally supervised. She also bred and owned a number of dog breeds, primarily hunting dogs, foxhounds, greyhounds, and border terriers. Her borders were successfully exhibited in many prominent shows on the eastern seaboard.

Scott married twice, first to Thomas H. Somerville in 1925, whom she divorced in 1935. Her second marriage to G. Randolph Scott also ended in divorce in 1938.

With the help of Gerald Strine, a sports writer with The Washington Post, Scott compiled and published a book, "Montpelier — The Recollections of Marion duPont Scott," which is largely an account of her life at Montpelier and in the world of racing.

Scott has been the benefactor of many charitable and educational organizations. Her gift of $4 million to Virginia Tech made possible the establishment of the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine's Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center at Morven Park in Leesburg, Virginia.

This article was adapted from The Daily Progress, Charlottesville, Virginia