As we reflect on another successful Point-to-Point, we look back on the 35 years the event has been celebrated on the rolling hills and meadows at Winterthur. This signature spring event was conceptualized in 1979 by Greta B. Layton and fellow Board member Julian Boyd to raise funds for, increase visitation, and create public awareness of Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library. Today it is a world-class event.
Although the first steeplechase races took place ten years following the death of Winterthur founder Henry Francis du Pont, the races are nonetheless steeped in history associated with the man and his fabled estate.
The Isabella du Pont Sharp Memorial race is named in honor of Isabella Sharp and her husband, Hugh Rodney Sharp, renowned for their generosity as preservationists. The Sharps owned land less than five miles south of Winterthur in Wilmington, Delaware, known as Gibraltar, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The noted gardens at both Winterthur and Gibraltar were designed by Marian Coffin.
The Winterthur Bowl is the event’s signature race. The winning rider is awarded the Henry Francis du Pont Challenge Trophy, named in honor of du Pont. H. F. du Pont was an avid collector of American decorative arts and also a horticulturist. The race is run across fields that were part of his extensive gentleman’s farm. In 1951, he opened Winterthur as a museum to share with the public.
The race dubbed the Vicmead Plate commemorates the founding of the Vicmead Hunt Club in May 1920 and is in memory of its four founding members: Mrs. Victor du Pont, Mrs. Hollyday Meeds, Mrs. A. Felix du Pont, and Mrs. H. Rodney Sharp. Vicmead was founded as an organized foxhunting club, part of a strong regional enthusiasm for this sport, which is rich in tradition, as well as the art and objects associated with it. Although foxhunting ceased as a club activity, other activities, such as golf, tennis, swimming, dining, and special events, have remained. In 1977, Vicmead Hunt Club and Bidermann Golf Course merged. Bidermann was H. F. du Pont’s private golf course. The winning rider of the Vicmead Plate is awarded an engraved silver goblet.
With a nod to more recent history, each year, the last honor bestowed on race day is the Greta Brown Layton Trophy, presented to the trainer who earns the most points on the day of the races.
Although the themes and activities and people have changed at times over the course of 35 years, Point-to-Point continues to provide the thrill of steeplechase racing and a wonderful springtime tradition at the spectacular Winterthur estate.
Save the Date! The 36th Annual Point-to-Point is May 4, 2014. We hope to see you at the races!