Inside Track:Remembering Allaire du Pont
Date Posted: 3/3/2009 10:45:58 AM
Last Updated: 3/4/2009 10:36:11 AM
- by Terry Conway
Turning into Woodstock Farm, visitors are greeted by a canopy of towering sycamores and pines lining a road that slopes down to the original training barn and track, all the way to the tranquil beauty of the Bohemia River.
It still seems odd not to see Allaire du Pont patrolling her Chesapeake City, Md., farm with her yellow Lab, Tank, checking on the newest crop of foals. One of the grand dames of the turf, she passed away Jan. 6, 2006, at the age of 92.
Du Pont was celebrated as the breeder and owner of America’s beloved Kelso; the mud-colored gelding was battle-tough, durable, and relentless.
Campaigning in the gray-and-daffodil silks of Bohemia Stables, Kelso notched a stunning 39 victories, broke or equaled 15 track records over dirt, turf, or muddy tracks and at distances up to two miles. The only five-time “Horse of the Year” (1960-64), Kelso retired to Woodstock Farm in 1966 where du Pont often rode him on foxhunts.
You can visit “Kelly” in a horse cemetery behind the farm office in a shaded area identified by a circle of weathered Greek columns and majestic trees. A quote at the base of Kelso’s granite marker simply says: “Where he gallops the earth sings.”
Du Pont also encouraged E.P. Taylor to build his American branch of Windfields (home to super-stallion Northern Dancer) across the road. Many others followed.
Woodstock is still in operation though scaled back considerably. Multiple stakes winner Shine Again resides here with another 10 broodmares and their youngsters, which are sold at auction each year.
The farm office—a relocated 1890s post office—also serves as a small museum, paying tribute to du Pont’s illustrious life. A slate of racing photographs and plaques adorn the walls, while stunning trophies and sculptures sit handsomely on tables and shelves. You’ll see five Richard Stone Reeves Horse of the Year paintings, beautiful silks, yellowed racing programs, bronzed horseshoes, and other memorabilia. Aerial photos from the 1940s document the farm and modest farmhouse where du Pont raised a son and daughter after her husband, Richard, was killed at age 31 in an experimental glider plane crash.
While racing is at the forefront, there is also a glimpse into a private, philanthropic woman. Brass nameplates of her stakes winners welcome visitors into a room that spotlights her life’s passions: aviation, fox hunting, tennis, exquisite needlepoint, wondrous destinations, the plight of abandoned animals, and preservation of open spaces.
Photographs capture du Pont as a National Glider champion who set a women’s endurance record in 1935, soaring for five hours and 31 minutes. Proficient at aerial stunts, she once buzzed the Chesapeake City Bridge that spans the C&D Canal—or so legend has it.
She married Richard du Pont, a member of the prominent du Pont family, in 1934. A wedding-day photo of the couple is simply striking.
A trio of black paper photo albums from the 1930s chronicles a flight on the airship Hindenburg, trips to exotic ports such as Cuba and Venezuela, even the elegant ice skating parties on the nearly frozen canal. It was a luxurious life straight out of The Great Gatsby.
Housed in the vintage post office, the collection of artifacts is a touching tribute to a special woman who touched the lives of thousands of people all over the world.
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