Thoroughbred owner/breeder June McKnight died peacefully at her home in Kennett Square, Pa. Feb. 14. She was 98 years old.
Born October 23,1918, she was daughter of John W. Hanes, an investment banker who later was appointed Undersecretary of the Treasury by Franklin D. Roosevelt. John Hanes also served as president and later chairman of the New York Racing Association.
June McKnight’s mother was Elizabeth Agnes Mitchel, a direct descendant of Ormsby M. Mitchel, a Union Major General in the Civil War and a noted astronomer.
June McKnight grew up in Rye, N.Y. and attended Foxcroft School, in Middleburg, Va., where she was named “Best Rider in School” her senior year. Her love of horses was lifelong and she achieved notable success as an owner and breeder of Thoroughbred racehorses. She campaigned a stable of steeplechasers for many years, trained by D.M. “Mikey” Smithwick and for the most part ridden by his brother “Paddy.” The Smithwick brothers are both members of Thoroughbred racing’s Hall of Fame. Hill Tie won the Virginia Gold Cup for McKnight and the Smithwicks in 1962 and 1963.
Mikey Smithwick also trained Princess Pout for McKnight. Bred by McKnight, the daughter of Prince John was a multiple stakes winner of 13 races and $260,265 in 1969-81. As a broodmare Princess Pout produced Alleged (by Hoist the Flag), a two-time winner of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and European champion in 1977 and 1978. As a sire, Alleged produced champion turf mare Miss Alleged, two-time champion steeplechaser Flat Top
McKnight also bred two-time Maryland Hunt Cup winner Tong, perhaps the most successful Thoroughbred ever born in Vermont (McKnight lived in Woodstock, Vt. for a large portion of her life and was instrumental in founding the Vermont Institute of Natural Science). McKnight pedigrees also accounted for two Virginia Gold Cups and a host of other winners over jumps and on the flat.
McKnight also enjoyed the equine sport of eventing and supported the international careers of sisters Bea and Beth Perkins.
A marriage to Henry T. McKnight ended in divorce. McKnight is survived by three children, H. Turney McKnight, of White Hall, Md., Sumner T. McKnight , of Culpeper, Va. and Christina A. McKnight of Grand Island, N.Y., six grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren. She is also survived by a brother, John W. Hanes Jr. of Bozeman, Mont. and two sisters, Ormsby Matthiessen of Old Lyme, Conn. and Susan Caldwell of Sagaponack, N.Y.
Services for McKnight are private. Contributions in her memory may be made to the National Steeplechase Foundation, 400 Fair Hill Drive, Elkton, Md. 21921 or The United States Equestrian Foundation, 4047 Iron Works Parkway, Lexington, KY 40511 earmarked for eventing.