Maggie Bryant of Middleburg, steeplechase Hall of Fame inductee and conservationist, dies at 92

Maggie Bryant at the 2011 Virginia Gold Cup Races, presenting terrier trophies with Dr. William H. Allison, chairman of the Gold Cup Races, Carole Stadfield (with Angel the terrier) and Julianne Larese, of the awards committee. Photo by Douglas Lees.

Magalen Ohrstrom “Maggie” Bryant’s reach in the thoroughbred world was broad, spanning two continents. At the time of her death on Sunday, June 27, she’d bred or owned winners of more than $5.6 million racing in the U.S. and Europe. Bryant was 92.

As recently as Saturday, Bryant’s homebred Eve’s City carried her two-tone blue silks in the distaff hurdle stake at Iroquois. Bryant homebred Yankee Doodle Boy won at the May 29 Virginia Gold Cup meet.

“Maggie loved her horses,” said longtime family friend and trainer Doug Fout of The Plains. “She was a real gem. She was my mom’s best friend – they’d grown up together in Greenwich,” [Connecticut]. Fout trained Ptarmigan, first for his mother, Eve Prime Fout, and, after Eve’s death in 2007, for Bryant. Ptarmigan was National Steeplechase Association distaff hurdle champion, for Bryant, in 2010.

Maggie Bryant is pictured with Dr. William Allison and Charles Seilheimer at the 2011 Gold Cup. Photo by Douglas Lees.


Bryant received the Francis Thornton Greene Award from the Virginia Steeplechase Association for contributions to the sport in 2003; she was inducted in the VSA Hall of Fame in 2014.

VSA president Will O’Keefe said Bryant was a giant in the sport. “When Maggie Bryant was inducted into the Virginia Steeplechase Hall of Fame in 2014, she joined the pillars of steeplechase in Virginia,” said O’Keefe. “This was a well-deserved recognition for a person who meant so much to the sport in America and overseas. “She and her horses will be missed.”

Bryant was equally well-known in French jump racing. She was the first female owner to win the Grand Steeplechase de Paris, a group 1 jump race at Auteuil, with Milord Thomas in 2015. Bryant repeated the historic victory in 2016 with So French, and again in 2017, also with So French.

Her Want of a Nail was group-placed over fences last weekend at Auteuil.

Sister-in-law Jacqueline Ohrstrom, who was married to Bryant’s brother, George, explained the French link. “George was always very proud of the fact that French was his first language due to their (family) nanny teaching the kids French when they were young,” said Ohrstrom. “Maggie was fluent in French, too, and they were both Francophiles, with a great love of the language and of French racing and bloodlines.”

Bryant had equal success on the flat, her biggest success coming when her V.E. Day won the grade 1 Travers Stakes at Saratoga in 2014.

In addition to her beloved horses, Bryant also maintained a herd of Angus and Hereford cattle and ran a huge hay operation on her 2,400-acre Locust Hill Farm in Middleburg. The Land Trust of Virginia named Bryant Conservationist of the Year in 2011 for being an advocate for wildlife protection and conservation measures around the world. She was chairperson of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, a board member of the National Wildlife Foundation and the WILD Foundation, a supporter of Peace Parks Foundation and a member of the American Bird Conservancy’s Advisory Council.

Maggie Bryant distributes prizes to terrier dog race winners at the 2011 Gold Cup. Photo by Douglas Lees.

Bryant was one of the first citizens in Fauquier to place more than 1,000 acres of her property under conservation easement. According to the Land Trust of Virginia, Bryant “consistently helped to preserve the landscapes of western Loudoun and northern Fauquier counties.”

Even though she was a titan of horse racing, at the same time, Bryant was down-to-earth, generous, welcoming and kind, say friends and acquaintances. “She was a sweetheart, a real sweetheart,” said trainer Fout. “She was a sport, a very good rider. She and my parents used to hunt together with Orange County [Hounds]. She loved her horses.”

Friend of the family Peter Arundel remembered Bryant, “She entertained in grand style. I remember a gathering of Olympic athletes at her farm and Maggie was holding court in a stylish red leather jacket.” He added, “And what a godsend to conservation around here.”

“It has been an honor and a huge pleasure to have been involved with Maggie Bryant,” Richard Powell, one of her trainers and horse managers in France, told the Thoroughbred Daily News on Monday. He was a regular visitor to Bryant’s Locust Hill Farm at the race viewing parties, young horse shows and victory celebrations she hosted regularly for friends and family. “She was more than an owner to me, (more like) a close member of my family. She was with me in the good times, but as well in the not good times, when I needed her the most.”