The 79th running of the Montpelier Hunt Races, an annual celebration of steeplechase racing and traditional southern hospitality, will be held on Saturday, November 2 at James Madison’s Montpelier. Tickets are available for purchase online (www.montpelierraces.org), at ticket outlets throughout Virginia (locations listed on the website), or by calling the offices of The Montpelier Steeplechase and Equestrian Foundation (540-672-0014).
The 2013 Race Day will include seven horse races beginning at 12:30 p.m. with purses totaling over $90,000. Additional events like the Jack Russell Terrier Races and the children’s Stick Horse Race will commence prior to the races. The Hat Contest, introduced two years ago and wildly popular, will be judged by Charlottesville weatherman, Travis Koshko, and representatives of C-VILLE Weekly magazine. This year’s Tailgate Competition, another crowd favorite, will be judged by renowned chef, Gerard Gasparini, of Restaurant Pomme in Gordonsville.
The Tailgate theme is “1938” to honor the year that Marion du Pont Scott’s beloved horse, Battleship, became the first American horse to win the British Grand National. This theme pervades the official 2013 Montpelier Hunt Races poster designed by Charlottesville artist, Sandy Lawrence. The William du Pont Gallery in the Montpelier Visitor Center is hosting a special exhibit about this momentous feat, which is complete with video footage from the 1938 race, the Grand National trophy, and Battleship’s portrait.
Presented this year by Mercedes-Benz of Fredericksburg, the Montpelier Hunt Races expects an attendance of approximately 17,000 visitors. Many levels of admission are available; the most coveted being the Reserved Parking spaces. These allow for entertaining six to twelve guests and are located on the rail and other prime viewing areas. Special tents located along the Finish Line rail are reserved for corporate entertaining. Vendor’s Row hosts an assortment of vendors specializing in hats, clothing, jewelry, boots, chocolates, cigars, and artwork, which for Orange residents marks the start of the holiday season. The Montpelier mansion, home of James and Dolley Madison, will host an “open house” with an additional charge of $10/adult and $5/child.
The Montpelier Hunt Races were established in 1934 by Marion du Pont Scott, regarded as America’s First Lady of Racing, and her brother, William du Pont, Jr. Together the siblings created many of steeplechase and flat-racing’s best known venues on the East Coast, including the Montpelier course in 1929. Upon Marion du Pont Scott’s death in 1983, the du Pont family transferred Montpelier to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Scott’s legacy is perpetuated with the running of the Montpelier Hunt Races, a premier event in the national Steeplechase Association’s circuit.