by Margaret Worrall
Well known editor, author and steeplechasing expert Peter Winants, age 82, died on May 18, at his home in Rectortown, Virginia, following a long battle with Hodgkin’s disease.
Born 1926 in Baltimore to Frances Bonsal and Peter Winants, the younger Peter was ultimately raised on My Lady’s Manor by his widowed mother and her second husband, noted horseman S. Bryce Wing.
Winants attended Pomfret School in Connecticut and Princeton University. Following a stint in the Army in WWII, Winants opened a successful photography business in Baltimore with his brother, Garry. In the beginning photographing horses and equine sports were only a small part of their work, but soon Peter Winants added freelance jobs, including writing, fulfilling his pent-up passion for racing, especially steeplechasing and he was soon a regular contributor to The Maryland Horse.
His first book was Jay Trump, A Steeplechasing Saga, a perceptively written story accented by Winants’ photographs of the 1965 English Grand National and Crompton “Tommy” Smith, the first American rider in the race’s history to win that event. There are now four additional books by Winants in print: Flatterer; Foxhunting with Melvin Poe; Steeplechasing, A Complete History of the Sport in North America; and The Sporting Art of Franklin B. Voss. At the time of his death he was working on a new book about the legendary Virginia horsewoman and Piedmont Master of Foxhounds, Theodora Randolph.
In 1972 Winants became the editor of The Chronicle of the Horse in Middleburg, the heart of Virginia horse country. At his retirement in 1991 Winants immediately undertook the evolution of the new National Sporting Library, moving from a damp space in the basement of the Chronicle building to a stunning new, self-contained facility of its own.
In 2009 the Maryland Hunt Cup Association honored Peter Winants with the S. Bryce Wing award, presented to a person who has made a significant contribution to timber racing in Maryland.
Peter Winants is survived by his wife Mary Weeden, his sons, Peter Winants, Jr., of Blue Mount, VA, and G. Woods Winants of Middleburg, VA, a daughter Jennifer Rose of Cresta Butte, CO, and six grandchildren. He was predeceased by his wife Rose of Middleburg and his brother Garet of Monkton.
Burial services are private. A memorial reception will be held on Tuesday, May 26 from 1:00-4:00 PM at the National Sporting Library in Middleburg, VA. In lieu of flowers the family suggests donations to the Piedmont Environmental Council, P.O. Box 460, Warrenton, VA 20188; or the charity of your choice.
From Crystal Brumme Kimball, Publisher of The Equiery:
Peter was tremendously influential to so many of us in the world of horse publications. He was very encouraging when I started The Equiery in the early 1990s, and he kindly let me publish his work for what I could afford to pay at that time (nothing); I felt honored that his worked graced the pages of The Equiery.
From Rob Banner, former publisher of The Chronicle of the Horse:
I owe the best part of my life to Peter. Lots of people do. He always saw the best in people and tried to put their talent where it was most needed. I’m not sure what he saw in me, but he gave me the biggest shot I ever had and it worked. I am eternally grateful for his trust in my ability.
Peter was so many things to so many people. He was a brilliant photographer, a creative and prolific writer, a strong family man, an exceptional athlete, a talented horseman, a patient teacher, a loyal friend, a skilled diplomat, and a true gentleman. Everything he did, he did in a quiet unassuming way, but with a thorough attention to detail that insured it would not have to be done again. He seemed embarrassed by praise and shunned the spotlight. He just wanted to do his job well and once done, he was ready to move on. I guess that’s where we are today. He did his job well, beautifully in fact. I guess he was ready to move on.
Robert L. Banner, Jr.
President, Great Meadow Foundation
From Ross Peddicord, former race writer for the Baltimore Sun and current publisher of Maryland Life:
When I first got to know Peter, I was just out of college in the 1970s and Peter and his brother Gary operated Winants Bros. Photos out of an office/showroom at Charles Center.
At that time Peter had teamed up with Snowden Carter to produce the award-winning Maryland Horse magazine, which developed a national reputation for excellence for Snowden’s prose and Peter’s photography. His photos were so sharp, clear and classic, really works of art. And he mentored so many terrific young photographers like Cappy Jackson and Neena Ewing. He wrote and photographed a terrific book about Jay Trump, the Cinderella horse from Charles Town racetrack who won both the Maryland Hunt Cup and the English Grand National.
He and Snowden and another local photographer, Skip Ball, were an incredibly-talented trio, really catapulting Maryland horse sports on a national and international stage. They were some of the pivotal people I have ever met in my life and always hilarious to be around.
Later Peter moved to Middleburg, Virginia and became editor of the Chronicle of the Horse. I heard many times that Sports Illustrated had offered Peter a job in his heyday as a sports photographer in the 1970s, but he turned it down because he loved living in Maryland, and then later, Virginia horse country.
Peter and I occasionally rode amateur steeplechase races and every time I’d see him over the years we’d laugh and particularly remember a “hard-fought” duel we had over the last half dozen fences in the Walter Edgar Memorial at the Howard County Point-to-Point. We were head and head for several fences, when I went to the inside and opened up a nice lead going into the last fence. Unfortunately, my horse ran out and Peter went on and won the race. Our duel was hilarious—we thought we were the reincarnation of Tommy Smith and Charlie Fenwick, but obviously in our own minds!
Peter loved riding and foxhunting and spent his whole life enjoying his passion. He was a gentleman-of-the-old school, yet he wasn’t stuffy or pretentious. Quite the opposite. He was always in great physical shape from riding so much, adventurous and fun to be with. He was just an extraordinary person.
If you have a memory or a photo to share, please e-mail it to us. Memories will be collected for a future print or digital edition of The Equiery.