Marion duPont Scott was the daughter of William duPont and Annie Rogers duPont, and 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 1900’s when her father acquired the property, formerly owned by 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 her, Meadow Woods, near Wilmington, Delaware, was given to the Delaware Museum of Natural History in 1980.
Scott became interested in farming activities, particularly in the breeding and raising of horses and other livestock while growing up at Montpelier. 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. Later she 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, and for many years Scott was the hostess for these races, which are sanctioned by the National Steeplechase & Hunt Association of which she was honorary chair. One of Scott’s most famous horses was Battleship sired by the great Man O’War, which after winning the Grand National Steeplechase Handicap at Belmont Park in 1934, and other notable races in America, became the first American-bred and American-owned horse to win the Grand National Steeplechase at Aintree, England in 1938. Subsequently, Battleship retired to stud at Montpelier and along with Annapolis, another son of Man O’War owned by Scott, 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, Maryland, and the United Nations Handicap at Atlantic City, New Jersey, for two successive years. In 1963, he was declared the Champion Grass Horse of America, and after winning purses aggregating 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 champion steeplechase horse of that year, Soothsayer. In 1977 she received a second Eclipse Award for developing the champion racing mare for that year, Proud Delta. She was the recipient of the Thoroughbred Breeders of Kentucky Award in 1973, and in 1981 was selected by The National Turf Writers Association as recipient of the Joe Palmer Award for meritorious service and outstanding achievement in racing.
In addition to her interest in horses, Scott had a great interest in horticulture and maintained lovely gardens at Montpelier to which she gave her personal supervision. She was an active member of the Dolly Madison Garden Club and The Garden Club of Virginia. She also bred and owned dogs of a number of 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 from whom she was 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 her 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 Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center at Morven Park in Leesburg, Virginia, as a part of the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine.
This article was adapted from The Daily Progress, Charlottesville, Virginia