PROPERTY FROM THE ESTATE OF MR. AND MRS. MILES VALENTINE
(LOTS 1-32, 99, 102, 105, 108-109)
The Valentine name is synonymous with excellence in steeplechasing and horse breeding, and the distinctive Valentine racing colors of red hearts on a pink background were a familiar and popular sight at racecourses across America and Europe. Mr. and Mrs. Miles Valentine of Unionville, Pennsylvania rank amongst the most successful trainers and breeders in the history of steeplechasing in North America.
Their horses ran in every major steeplechasing meeting in America, Ireland and England including England's Grand National, the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Colonial Cup. Significant achievements included Carraroe's victory in Ireland's Galway Plate in 1962, winning the American Grand National four times and retiring the Maryland Hunt Cup after Cancottage's hat-trick of victories. By 1973, Mr. and Mrs. Valentine were steeplechasing's leading owners by money. After her husband's death in 1978, Mrs. Valentine enthusiastically continued the breeding and racing programme that they had initiated. In 1982, Mrs. Valentine received the F. Ambrose Clark Award, presented to the individual who has done the most to promote steeplechasing in America, as well as serving as Chairman of the board of the National Steeplechase and Hunt Association. Mrs. Valentine had earned the title 'The First Lady of American Steeplechasing'.
Born in England, Mrs. Valentine moved to Philadelphia at an early age with her mother, Jessie Drew-Bear, an accomplished amateur artist who studied at the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts. They jointly pursued their passion for equestrian sport, while maintaining strong ties with their English friends, especially Lady Munnings, the artist's second wife. The three women often rode out hunting together on Exmoor and this friendship lasted all their lives, with Jessie Drew-Bear regularly sending nylon stockings, a scarce commodity in post-War England, to her friend at Castle House, Dedham.
The collection that Mr. and Mrs. Valentine formed for their newly built farmhouse at Unionville encompassed traditional nineteenth- and early twentieth-century sporting art from the golden age of fox hunting and racing in England, but was highlighted by a superb group of works by Sir Alfred Munnings. The close friendship between Mrs. Valentine, her mother and Lady Munnings, perhaps explains the particularly personal nature of the pictures by Munnings that Mr. and Mrs. Valentine collected during the late 1960s and early 1970s on their regular trips to England and Ireland. These pictures represent one of the earliest and most important collections of the artist's work in America, all of which were lent to the ground-breaking Munnings retrospective exhibition held at Wildenstein's New York gallery in 1983. This exhibition did much to heighten the artist's popularity in this country and bring his work to a wider audience.