This may be, as some Eastern snobs like to sneer, the mere Midwest, but, thanks to these two, the St. James competition has become one of the pre-eminent steeplechase events in the country-drawing VIP guests on the order of Maj. Ronald Ferguson, father of Duchess of York Sarah "Fergie" Ferguson, and riders of the caliber of 6-foot-3 Daniel "Speedy" Smithwick of Virginia, a champion hundred-race winner whose ancestors sold Robert E. Lee his legendary horse, Traveler.
The big steeplechase event and the five shorter races on the day's card-interrupted by a lunch-break parade of antique carriages and demonstrations of riding skills-are far from the only public occasion at St. James Farm. From late spring to midautumn, there's always something equestrian going on, always horses grazing at pasture or leaping fences or performing in one of the dressage rings; always riders about in tight breeches and hacking jackets, dark riding coats or riding pinks (named for a long-ago London tailor named Mr. Pink, not for their scarlet color).
Though the emphasis is on athletics-the dressage and jumping events help train contenders for Olympic equestrian competition-there is a substantial humanitarian side to all this. The farm is home to the St. James Riding School for the Handicapped. Before [John] Davies and his riding-instructor wife, Donna, came to St. James from England in 1973, they had been active in British programs employing horseback riding as therapy for handicapped persons-especially children. McCormick encouraged Davies to establish a similar project at St. James, and many of the annual equestrian events there grew out of the success of that effort and the opportunity to make additional use of some of the equipment and facilities required for the handicapped program.