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The Grandes Dames of Racing


Many of the women in the winner's circle after important races are there only because they are fans of the sport and their husbands are owners or trainers or jockeys. But a small number have truly earned their entrée. Genuine horsewomen, tradition-conscious proprietors of fine thoroughbred stables and breeding farms, they are dedicated to all phases of racing, from the barns to the sales rings, from the training grounds to the major tracks. Their enthusiasm and devotion to racing, as the best trainers—sometimes ruefully—will attest, far exceed that of their male counterparts. Richard Meek has photographed a few of them and the horse for whom each has a special affection. The following eight pages are a salute to their love of the sport and to the attraction of their presence.

Mrs. William Haggin Perry
From her home on the first fairway of El Dorado Country Club in Indian Wells, Mrs. Perry commutes regularly by helicopter to the racing at Santa Anita. Born to the sport as the daughter of the late Skiddy von Stade, president of Saratoga from 1943 to 1955, she remains an active participant. Her fine race mare Princessnesian (left) is now in foal to Bold Ruler.

Mrs. Richard C. duPont
Accompanied by her yellow Labradors Gussie and Debbie, Mrs. duPont rides each morning around 1,500-acre Woodstock Farm on Kelso, one of history's most admired thoroughbreds. She directs breeding operations, flies to the tracks where her horses run and relaxes at Boone's Cabin (below), a retreat on the Bohemia River in Maryland that borders the farm.

Mme. Jean Stern
All in black and alone as usual, Mme. Stern walks to the black Citroën that will take her home after an afternoon at Maisons-Laffitte in Paris, carrying the shooting slick she has used to watch the races from an isolated rail position. Her colors were declared in 1898 by her late husband. At her Normandy farm is the great stallion Sicambre (left), grandsire of Sea-Bird.

Mme. Léon Volterra
An ardent racegoer and traveler, Mme. Volterra entertains in an apartment near the Arc de Triomphe that reflects her fastidious taste. She has consistently been one of France's leading owners and breeders since she began directing her late husband's stable in 1949. Her Belle Sicambre (right), daughter of Mme. Stern's Sicambre, won the 1964 Prix de Diane.

Mrs. Cloyce E. Tippett
Dressed as she often is in her racing colors of fuchsia and purple, Liz Tippett stands in the stable area of her newest farm, Llangollen of California, near San Diego. Founded in Virginia, her thoroughbred operations now also include Llangollen of Ocala, Fla. She has high hopes for Racing Room, a 5-year-old son of Restless Wind, shown here at Santa Anita.

Mrs. Charles Shipman Payson
Trustee of several art museums and a distinguished collector, Mrs. Payson visits The Country Gallery in Locust Valley, N.Y., which she sponsors with two friends. Neither art nor enthusiasm for her New York Mets detracts from her interest in Greentree, shared with brother John Hay Whitney. Their Stage Door Johnny, now at stud, won last year's Belmont Stakes.

Traveling constantly to oversee her extensive business and racing affairs, Lady Sassoon is at home in London, Nassau and Dallas (below). She took over Sir Victor's stable and stud, including four Epsom Derby winners, after his death in 1961. Her favorite, Twilight Alley (left), who won the 1963 Ascot Gold Cup in the third start of his career, now stands at Newmarket.

Mrs. Gene Markey
The evidence of Calumet's unparalleled achievement surrounds Mrs. Markey in Lexington: portraits of her seven Derby winners—Whirlaway, Pensive, Citation, Ponder, Hill Gail, Iron Liege and Tim Tam. Today she supervises Calumet's breeding and the racing of those who compete in the famous devil-red colors. Citation (right), now 25, was retired this year.