Watch them go: Horses, terriers enliven Montpelier
Montpelier often plays second fiddle to its more famous brother to the south, but the place has a charm all on its own without having to duplicate any of Monticello’s more lavish ways. The 2,700-acre estate that fourth President of the U.S. James Madison described as “a squirrel’s jump from heaven” is an active, archaeological tour de force.
The house and grounds ramble on in a cohesive jumble of history, landscape, and racetracks. To celebrate these unlikely unions, the Virginia estate of President James and Dolley Madison will host the 68th running of the Montpelier Hunt Races Saturday, November 2.
To celebrate this annual event of steeplechase racing and sparkling Southern hospitality in the scenic Virginia Piedmont, Montpelier has pulled out all the stops to ensure an enjoyable day. Originally launched by Marion duPont Scott, one of America’s celebrated breeders of racehorses, the 2002 race card includes seven races, featuring the Madison Plate (a race of two and three eighths miles over national fences with a purse of $15,000) and the Noel Laing Handicap Stakes (about two and half miles over brush with a purse of $25,000).
The day’s racing opens- on a much smaller scale- with the immensely popular Jack Terrier races, including terrier-sized hurdle and steeplechase races that are open to any pre-registered Jack Russell terrier.
A special tailgate competition adds to the festivities. This tailgate contest is named in honor of Dolley Madison, who called Montpelier home for half a century and whose legendary hospitality inspired the term “First Lady.”
Elaborate candelabra and ornate centerpieces vie for attention amid the Brunswick stew and ham biscuits. A tempting array of vendors with the classic Piedmont-sounding names of Virginia Culinary Company, Equestrian Services, Equine Impressions, Mangham Manor Mohair, Cigar Express, Red Fox Peanuts, among others, offer their wares.
So, come early. Gates open at 9:30am with the Jack Russell Terrier Races starting at 10:30am, the tailgate competition at 11:30am. Then the national anthem does its patriotic duty at 12:30, and the first race begins at 1pm. Races run rain or shine and remember, no dogs (except for those racing) or other pets allowed.
Montpelier, a National Trust historic site, is located on Route 20, four miles southwest of Orange, at 11407 Constitution Highway. Saturday, November 2, gates open at 9.30am. General admission tickets $10, general parking $5, and infield parking $30. For more information call 540-672-0014.