Washington Life Magazine
Washington Life Magazine

It's time for Middleburg to get jumping

By Vicky Moon

The Middleburg Spring Races

The splendid swath of Middleburg countryside will soon be green... tulips are popping up and the daffodils are dazzling. Those who traveled south for the horse shows and polo matches in Palm Beach and Wellington are returning. Alison Firestone was busy on the grand prix jumping circuit with her horse Secret Love. But alas, her love is no longer a secret. The daughter of Bert and Diana (Johnson & Johnson heiress) Firestone is set to wed horse show photographer Andrew Robitaille in a small private ceremony in Costa Rica in May.

Jumping into the Spring of things
The steeplechase season is upon us… horses are in training, riders are getting fit and the ladies are pounding the pavement for new frocks for the races and gowns for the Hunt Ball. Where else could you find a swimming pool for horses? "Swimming is an alternative to galloping on hard ground," says 15-time Virginia point-topoint Trainer of the Year Don Yovanovich. "It freshens them up and gives the horses a mental diversion." Don has 25 in training, including hurdle horse Molino Rosso for Merle Russell, daughter of the late Country Music Hall of Fame signer Chet Atkins, and also serves as the director of racing for the Gold Cup races, a major stop on the circuit taking place the first Saturday in May.

Twenty-five-year old Brad Johnson works as a freelance steeplechase rider for noted horsewoman Dot Smithwick at Sunny Bank Farm and sportsman Randy Rouse. In his spare time, Brad teaches yoga at Middleburg Fitness Center. "The added flexibility helps as an injury prophylactic in case of a fall or just through the wear and tear of excessive riding," says the five-foot-five Brad, who stays racing fit at 132 pounds.

It's likely spectators will see him ride at the 85th annual Middleburg Spring Races on Saturday, April 22. This year's card includes: the $25,000 Paul R. Fout Sport of Kings Maiden Hurdle Race, in honor of the late horseman who served the races as a director, chairman, president and general manager for the past 45 years. His son, Doug Fout, also a trainer, now steps in as president. The feature is the $75,000 Bank of America Temple Gwathmey Cup.

Robin Keys keeps in shape at the fitness center and is constantly pursuing the perfect racing ensemble. Her husband, Gordie, raises cows and horses at Beaver Dam Farm. Robin says there are three elements to dressing for the races: "Hat, jacket and shoes. Once these are established, everything else falls into place." She buys many of her elegant chapeaux at Tully Rector's shop in Middleburg. "People love to see a lady in a beautiful hat. My mother Mary Kay Garwood and Rose Marie Bogley taught me this. Both wear a hat well."

The Temple Gloathmay Cup

Cooking up a Vineyard
It seems like only yesterday…It was Super Bowl XXII week in San Diego, January 1988, and the Washington Redskins defeated the Denver Broncos, 42-10. Back in Washington, Suzanne Martin Cooke, briefly the third wife of late team owner Jack Kent Cooke, was holding her newborn baby girl all dressed up in Redskins regalia and posing for photos. Flash forward eighteen years…Jacqueline Kent Cooke, now blonde and beautiful, has come of age and is set to graduate from high school and head off to college this fall. Meanwhile, Jack Kent Cooke's son, John Cooke, former team president of the Redskins, and his wife, Rita, have returned to the countryside. They're now living at Boxwood Farm, the 129-acre estate they purchased in November, 2001 from Washington-based auto mogul Bob Rosenthal and his wife Marion. The Cookes are fulfilling a lifelong dream of owning a vineyard, which Washington architect Hugh Newell Jacobsen has helped design using native fieldstone, seam metal roofs, and cupolas. The Cookes have planted 14-acres with eight varieties of French grapes. Boxwood Winery only will produce red wine, blended in the French Bordeaux tradition. A limited quantity of the 2005 vintage will be available in 2007.


And the climate is ripe for buying
For anyone who'd like to be the Cookes' new neighbors, Hickory Tree Farm, the 372-acre estate of the late Alice du Pont Mills right next door is on the market for $17.9 million. It includes the main house, Confederate Hall, seven barns, eight staff houses and a racehorse training track. Speaking of lovely estates, St. Bride's Farm, designed in 1917 by Nathan C. Wyeth, who also worked on the "West Wing" and in the Oval Office at The White House, will be among the homes and gardens open for Historic Garden Week. This year's chairman, Valerie Dove, who describes herself as "Little Miss Type A," has every detail down to traffic patterns and the luncheon menu under control. All of this following recent major back surgery, she's handled numerous minutiae long distance from the winter home at Candle Reef in St. Croix she shares with husband, Guy Dove.

Ah, but wait….all "bets" might be off if it rains for the races or the garden tour? "Have an awesome raincoat-mine is a bright orange Michael Kors-then you can wear whatever you want underneath," says Robyn Yovanovich, who does the color commentary for the television broadcast at The Gold Cup.

"The weather can always create a situation where you need a back-up plan," Robin Keys adds. "I remember one year at the spring races, it rained off and on and this gal had on a beautiful pair of Chanel bi-color flats that were just trashed at the end of the day. So leave the best ones at home."


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