I owe my career to Gene Weymouth. No, really. Well, kind of. And if you spit out your coffee at that statement I’m sorry. Get a napkin.
Back in 1993, I was working for the Cecil Whig newspaper in Elkton, Md. I covered high school sports, the school board, county commissioners’ meetings and even once wrote a feature story about how many pick-up trucks there were in Cecil County. Short answer, a lot. Rarely, really rarely, I got to write about racing. The Fair Hill Races happened every May. Fair Hill Training Center, where Weymouth trained, was scrabbling along. Chesapeake City still percolated with breeding activity. Charlie Peoples would get a good 3-year-old for Bayard Sharp across the state line in Middletown, Del. One of the best trotters in the world, SJ’s Photo, was with David Wade on Dr. Miller Road (side note, Wade told me over and over again not to ask how the horse “ran,” because he didn’t run he trotted; I learned, eventually to ask how he trotted).
Anyway, Weymouth – who passed away Monday at age 85 – was Fair Hill’s leading trainer in 1993 and I made the case for a feature story in the Whig. He’d won 53 races, at the time a career high, and was a regular at pretty much every Mid-Atlantic track and on the steeplechase circuit. Photographer Robert Craig (or maybe Jeff Swinger, I’ve got to dig up the clip) and I went to Fair Hill and spent half a day. The photographer was amazed by Weymouth, a member of the du Pont family who turned down a career as a banker or stock broker to become a lifelong horseman, and would have taken photos all day. The man was a wonderful subject with massive hands and lines and crags running this way and that on his face. He looked old and young at the same time.
Weymouth told stories, laughed, cursed, showed us some horses, straightened his twisted back (a little) for a photo and we ended up with a pretty cool feature. A few days after it ran, Weymouth called me to thank me for the article. He told me he liked it, then he tried to pay me.
“I want to give you some money for doing that story,” he said.
This was a first for me.
“No, no, you don’t have to do that,” I said. “I was just doing my job. It’s what I do, write stories.”
He got fairly insistent, tried to tell me how the world worked and that I should just take the money and not tell anyone. I was probably making $6.25 an hour, working 4 p.m. to midnight, and the money would have been welcome but I stuck to my journalistic principles and didn’t take it. I’m not sure how it came up, but at some point we got to talking about the concept of starting a steeplechase newspaper. We were past the idea phase of Steeplechase Times, but it wasn’t yet a reality. Weymouth asked me how we were going to make money. I said we were going to sell advertising.
And he bought the first ad.
Launched in 1994, Steeplechase Times lasted 18 years, turned into ST Publishing, The Saratoga Special, thisishorseracing.com, the editor’s post at Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred and pretty much the rest of my life.
Thanks, Gene. The world is a little bit emptier knowing you’re not out there somewhere.
Gene Weymouth Obituary from his family
Eugene Eleuthere du Pont Weymouth, 85, of Kennett Square, Pa passed away June 11 surrounded by family and caregivers who loved him very much.
He was born on Jan. 27, 1933 in Wilmington, Del., to George and Deo du Pont Weymouth. He attended A.I. du Pont School and Westtown School. After graduating from the McDonough Military Academy in 1951 he attended the University of Wisconsin.
Born into a family that had a love of horses, Weymouth’s talent as an equestrian was evident at a young age. As a child he competed at the Devon Horse Show, but then set his sights on steeplechase racing, later becoming one of the top amateur steeplechase jockeys of his time.
At 16 he won the Deep Run Hunt Cup in Richmond, Va. riding Cormac. That same year he won the Western Pennsylvania Hunt Cup riding Done Sleeping. Additionally, some of his career highlights include winning the Monmouth Hunt Cup, New Jersey Hunt Cup, and the Maryland Hunt Cup.
In 1952, he had the opportunity to ride in the English Grand National in Aintree, England on a horse named Possible. Unfortunately, they did not cross the finish line together, but Weymouth always counted that as one of his most memorable experiences. He also won the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup and years later graciously allowed the race to be run on his farm in Kennett Square.
Weymouth won the Maryland Hunt Cup as a jockey aboard Ned’s Flying in 1957 and also captured the historic timber race as a trainer when Burnmac won in 1974.
At 24, Weymouth started training Thoroughbred racehorses and became a leading trainer at numerous New England tracks. At the encouragement of his father he went off to work as a stockbroker for a brief period, but returned to training. From 1984 until his retirement in 2010, he trained horses at the Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland, where he was one of the original investors, working side by side with his employees from early mornings until late evenings.
From the base at Fair Hill, Weymouth’s stable developed into a force in the Mid-Atlantic with dozens of wins through the 1990s. He won 78 races in 1995 and topped $1.2 million mark in purse earnings in 1996, when he won 70 races.
His top horses included stakes winner After The Glitter, a homebred daughter of Screen King and Weymouth’s mare Jane G who earned $456,000 and won 17 races. Bristling won 11 races and earned $386,000. At 35-1, the homebred finished second to future sire Elusive Quality in the Grade 3 Jaipur Handicap at Belmont Park in 1998. Canton River won 17 races, including four stakes. Weymouth ran Colonial Secretary in the 1995 Belmont Stakes for owner Buckland Farm, but would have preferred a race at Delaware Park most assuredly. The horse finished ninth at 52-1, but rebounded to win three times the next year and finish his career (with Weymouth and other trainers) with 22 wins.
Equibase credits Weymouth with 967 wins and more than $11.6 million in purse earnings from 1976-2010, but his career goes back to the 1950s.
He retired from training in 2010, and spent several winters in Florida and North Carolina – watching sunsets and reading the newspaper. He looked forward to visits with his sons and was a proud grandfather. He enjoyed watching football and betting with friends, and traveling with his wife, Cindy and his four-legged friend Huey.
Weymouth was a member of the National Steeplechase Association, National Museum of Racing, Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association and Maryland Horse Breeders Association.
Weymouth was preceded in death by his son, George Tyler Weymouth, his brother, George A. “Frolic” Weymouth, and Trinda Hope Weymouth. Survivors include Cynthia Irwin Weymouth, his wife of 19 years. He is also survived by his sons, Eugene Eleuthere du Pont Weymouth Jr. and Knox Shaw Weymouth, his wife Dori Ann Weymouth, and their three children, Knox Ryder Weymouth, Dewitt Hobbs Weymouth, and Tyler Scout Weymouth. He is also survived by his sister, Patricia Bradford Hobbs, six nieces and nephews, and his former wife, Betty Shaw Weymouth.
Cindy Weymouth gave special thanks to Sherrell Powell, Allie Brooks, Anjenette Jones, Angola Moore, Donna Crossan, Ernest Burston, Joann Caputo, and Kelly Glenn. Also, BK Temp, Homewatch Caregivers, and Trinity Health Care.
Services and interment are private. In lieu of flowers donations can be sent to The Steeplechase Fund, c/o the National Steeplechase Association, 400 Fair Hill Drive, Elkton, MD 21921.