Longtime steeplechase trainer Dot Smithwick dies

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Veteran steeplechase trainer Dorothy “Dot” Smithwick died at her Middleburg farm Thursday morning, June 16. She was 82. Smithwick campaigned horses on the National Steeplechase and Virginia Point-to-Point circuits for decades. She owned Sunny Bank Farm, a 1,650-acre farm that sits adjacent to Glenwood Park in Loudoun County, Va.

Smithwick put 1,076 acres of Sunny Bank into easement in 2005. Originally a Quaker farm, Sunny Bank has been in Smithwick’s family since 1779. It remains one of the largest conserved farms in Virginia. Smithwick’s family began farming in Virginia in 1769.

Sunny Bank employed an open-door policy, taking in horses and horsemen and providing a haven for steeplechasing and fox hunting. Some stayed for a weekend, others stayed a lifetime. Alumni include leading amateur jockey Gregg Ryan, stakes-winning trainer Julie Gomena, Maryland Hunt Cup-winning jockey Joe Davies, Smithwick’s sons Speedy and Roger and countless young horsemen who benefited from the opportunity. According to historians, Civil War general Robert E. Lee’s horse, Traveller, was bred and raised at Sunny Bank.

Smithwick was heavily involved in the Piedmont Environment Council and the Goose Creek Association.

A member of the Virginia Steeplechase Hall of Fame, Smithwick won two races this spring with Indian Run Farm’s Swimming River, winning at her local meet, the Middleburg Spring Races and the Virginia Gold Cup. Career highlights include winning the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup with Dr. Ramsey and multiple races with Rockaround, Quixotic, Double Found, Topeador and Double Redouble.

Daughter of Dorothy Kepler and Samuel Hamilton Rogers Fred, Smithwick graduated from Vassar College in 1950. Married to the late Hall of Fame trainer Mikey Smithwick, she is survived by sons, D.M. “Speedy” Smithwick Jr. and Roger Smithwick and granddaughters Kathy and Patricia Smithwick.

Services will be held at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, June 25 at Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Middleburg. A reception at Sunny Bank Farm will follow the services. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the American Steeplechase Injured Jockey’s Fund (P.O. Box 270, Northville, NY 12134) or the Goose Creek Foundation (P.O. Box 1178, Middleburg, VA 20118).