On September 29, 2012, the Maryland Hunt Cup Association presented the S. Bryce Wing silver trophy to Will O’Keefe of Warrenton, Virginia.
This award honors the memory of S. Bryce Wing, who was a member of the Maryland Hunt Cup Association from 1939 until his death at age 85 in 1975. He was secretary of the Maryland Hunt Cup from 1956 to 1966 and also president of the National Steeplechase and Hunt Association (now the National Steeplechase Association) from 1948 to 1964. In addition, Wing served as a member of The Jockey Club and as Master of Foxhounds at the Elkridge-Harford Hunt Club. Mr. Wing’s devotion to horses, hounds, and racing was lifelong. Significantly, this award is not given each year, but only when the Committee feels it is genuinely merited.
Certainly recipient Will O’Keefe fulfills that criterion. Known as the “voice of steeplechasing,” O’Keefe has been calling jump races in Virginia and Maryland for more than 30 years, most notably the Virginia Gold Cup and the Maryland Hunt Cup.
In presenting the award at the Shawan Downs race meet, Maryland Hunt Cup secretary Sherlock Gillet Jr. emphasized, “Will became the first and only announcer of the Grand National and the Maryland Hunt Cup in 1994, which was the 100th anniversary of the Hunt Cup. Will’s extensive knowledge and enthusiasm makes each race memorable and exciting to all race goers as we are witnessing here today.
In addition to his professional race calling, Will has modernized the way horsemen enter races and track results through Central Entry. This database is the Holy Grail of steeplechasing, with decades of information from sanctioned and unsanctioned races that is available to all steeplechase enthusiasts. This labor of love is evidence of Will’s commitment to the history, the tradition, and the future of our sport.
In spite of being born into the Virginia horse family who produced 1966 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Kauai King and being a dedicated member of the Casanova Hunt Club, O’Keefe chose to pursue a degree in history at the University of Virginia. Like many addicted horse people, however, his vocation soon turned back home where he managed Pine Brook, the family farm in Warrenton.
From these roots O’Keefe became the racing secretary for the Casanova Point-To-Point, a volunteer position, and then became the Executive Director of Morven Park and Race Director for their fall sanctioned meeting, not to mention serving as the race secretary and president of the Virginia Steeplechase Association and the chairman of the National Steeplechase Association’s race chairman’s committee. He even owned and trained the 1980 Virginia Point-To-Point Champion race mare Royal Greed.
Aside from his accuracy and compelling race calling career, perhaps the most important contribution that O’Keefe has made to the entire sport of American steeplechasing is his creation of the Central Entry Office. Not only do horsemen now have a single entity where they may enter horses, receive overnights, and view results and photos, but O’Keefe has created a resource for the history of an individual horse’s lifetime steeplechase career, unsanctioned as well as sanctioned. Nowhere else do such records exist.
The recipient of such honors as the 2011 Yves Henry Lifetime Achievement Award and the 2010 VSA Special Recognition Award, O’Keefe was also one of the first people to be inducted into the Virginia Steeplechasing Hall of Fame in 2007.
“I was very surprised and tremendously honored to receive this award,” O’Keefe said. “The history of the sport is extremely important to me, and I appreciate the magnitude of this honor. I have enjoyed every step along the way. As much as I love the Virginia Gold Cup, there is nothing like the Maryland Hunt Cup in the world.”
The first Bryce Wing award was presented in 1976. In the following 36 years, the trophy has been awarded 26 times.
For additional information, contact Margaret Worrall: