June McKnight, a successful breeder of steeplechase and flat horses, died peacefully on February 14 at her home in Kennett Square, Pa. She was 99.
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. Mr. 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.
Mrs. 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 A. P. “Paddy” Smithwick. Mikey Smithwick also trained for her the stakes-winning mare on the flat, Princess Pout.
As a broodmare, Princess Pout proved the beginnings of Mrs. McKnight’s success as a Thoroughbred breeder. She ultimately achieved the unique accomplishment of breeding the winners of two editions each of the Prix de ‘Arc de Triomphe (Fr-G1) and two Maryland Hunt Cup.
Alleged, out of Princess Pout, won the Arc in 1977 and 1978 before a successful career at stud in Kentucky. Tong, owned by her son H. Turney McKnight, took the Maryland Hunt Cup in 1982 and 1986. Her bloodlines accounted for two Virginia Gold Cups as well, with Tong winning in 1980 and Kuujjuaq in 1993. She also was responsible for many other winners over jumps and on the flat.
Mrs. McKnight also enjoyed the sport of eventing and supported the international careers of sisters Bea and Beth Perkins.
Mrs. McKnight lived a large portion of her life in Woodstock, Vermont. A dedicated conservationist, she was instrumental in founding the Vermont Institute of Natural Science there.
A marriage to Henry T. McKnight ended in divorce. Mrs. 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 Mrs. 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.”