John E. “Jack” Cooper
Former National Steeplechase Association Executive Secretary John E. “Jack” Cooper died Sept. 9 at Rosehaven Nursing Home near his home in Litchfield, Conn. Mr. Cooper, who was recovering from pneumonia, was 93.
First hired by the NSA in 1932, Mr. Cooper was elected executive secretary in 1932 and held the position for 30 years. In addition, “Mr. Steeplechase,” as he was often known, worked numerous racing-related tasks, including race secretary and handicapper.
Based out of New York, first at The Jockey Club’s office and later at Belmont Park, Mr. Cooper and his small staff coordinated all aspects of the sport.
Under his watch, he saw increased participation, better officiating, and larger prize money. He would also weather the sport’s transformation from a staple at the nation’s racetracks to the increasingly popular one-day meets held today.
Best known publicly for his handicapping, Mr. Cooper once famously assigned a then-record 176 lbs. to 1950s steeplechasing great Neji for a race that Neji would lose by a nose to Benguala, carrying 147 lbs.
Forty years later, he recalled, “It’s the purpose, of course, for a handicapper to provide a close finish. This I did, but I felt terribly that Neji was beaten.”
Perhaps Mr. Cooper’s greatest achievement was his role in the modernization of the sport’s safety. Encouraged by Mr. Cooper, the NSA’s leaders embraced the then-novel concept of the portable hurdle known as the National fence to replace the hard-to-build and-maintain natural hurdles. During Mr. Cooper’s reign, the NSA also formed the Steeplechase Fund, benefiting jockeys and others in need.
In 1974 Mr. Cooper was presented with the F. Ambrose Clark Award for distinguished service to American steeplechasing. He retired from a professional role at the end of 1976, although afterward he regularly volunteered at race meets.
Mr. Cooper is survived by Grace, his wife of 67 years; daughter Joan Denu; and sons Robert Waide Cooper and John E. Cooper Jr., eight grandchildren and seven great-grand children.
Donations in his memory may be made to the National Steeplechase Fund c/o The National Steeplechase Association, 400 Fair Hill Dr., Elkton, MD 21921.
Lynn Groetsch Platou
Lynn Groetsch Platou, an active eventing competitor and volunteer from Folsom, La., died on Aug. 6 after a short bout with cancer. She was 55.
A native of New Orleans, Mrs. Platou was a dynamic member of the Southern Eventing and Dressage Association. Instrumental in producing the region’s annual Watershed Horse Trials at her former residence in Folsom, Mrs. Platou was also an avid participant, frequently attending competitions across the southeastern United States. She also found the time to organize numerous eventing clinics in southern Louisiana, bringing in such clinicians as Jim Graham and Becky Douglas.
Friends and family attended a memorial mass and visitation in New Orleans on Aug. 12.
She is survived by her husband, Peter Platou Sr., stepchildren Nicolle Platou-Bivona, Peter Platou Jr. and Ashley Platou; siblings James H. Groetsch III, Jan Groetsch Lothering-ton, Jack P. Groetsch, Jeffrey P. Groetsch, John A. Groetsch; and her horse Murphy.
Donations in Mrs. Platou’s memory may be sent to St. Francis Animal Sanctuary, P.O. Box 677, Abita Springs, LA 70420. Staff
Cornelia Irene “Mickey” Presnikoff
Cornelia Irene “Mickey” Presnikoff, one of the U.S. Pony Club’s most influential volunteers, died on Aug. 30 in Berryville, Va. She was 101.
Born June 30, 1903, to Sir Evan Hayward and Lady Elizabeth Hayward, Mrs. Presnikoff was raised and educated in England. Having traveled extensively throughout Europe as a young woman, she spoke French and German fluently. In her early 20s, she voyaged to America with her brother. In the western United States, she met and married her husband, Count Igor Ivanovich Presnikoff.
In the 1950s, Mrs. Presnikoff became involved in the newly organized United States Pony Clubs and would go on to spend almost three decades instructing and judging all over North America. She was named a “USPC Legend” at the organization’s 50th anniversary celebration in January.
During this period, Mrs. Presnikoff also became involved with the nascent U.S. Combined Training Association and served as an official at numerous competitions for years.
Mrs. Presnikoff also operated a travel service based in Northern Virginia during the 1950s and 1960s, organizing several trips to the Olympics specifically catering to equine enthusiasts.
Mrs. Presnikoff is survived by her two daughters, Elizabeth Presnikoff of Boyce, Va., and Anne Presnikoff of Berryville, Va.
Contributions in her memory may be made to the USPC, 4041 Iron Works Parkway, Lexington, KY 40511 or to the Clarke County (Va.) Humane Foundation, P.O. Box 713, Berryville, VA 22611. Staff
John P. Brooks
John P. Brooks, former MFH of the Woodbrook Hunt, died Aug. 25, of Lou Gehrig’s disease. He was 57.
Born and raised in Virginia, Mr. Brooks was introduced as a child to foxhunting, one of the great passions in his life. He became a family attorney after graduating from the University of Virginia law school in 1977 and moved to Washington in 1984.
He joined the Woodbrook Hunt, near Tacoma, Wash., in 1986. He soon became secretary and then became huntsman in 1989 and MFH in 1991. In 1999 he passed the role of huntsman to his wife, Jean, and, suffering from his disease, he stepped down as MFH in May.
Mr. Brook’s courage and grace in the face of one of the most disastrous diseases known to man embodied his dedication to the Woodbrook Hunt and to the sport. He continued to ride in a neck brace when he could no longer hold his head up, even through such prolonged undertakings such as the Western Hunt Challenge joint meet in Reno, Nev. To the very end, he was in touch with all hunt members by e-mail, vitally concerned with the future of the hunt.
A member said, “Happy is the person who has a grand passion in their life. The hunt was John’s. It defined him, and he defined it for all of us. We followed John as surely as we followed hounds, and we all know that it will take the combined efforts of our entire membership to do what he was willing to do alone. I warned him he’d never get a thank you note out of me for setting such an extraordinary example.”
A wake was held following services at the Woodbrook Hunt Clubhouse.
Mr. Brooks is survived by his wife of 14 years, Jean Hamblin Brooks; children Jennifer, Tonia, Alex and Kaleb; sister Mary Jane and brother James Furman and a grandson.
Memorial donations may be made to the ALS Association, 27001 Agoura Rd., Calabasas Hills, CA 91301. Staff
Herbert Allison Schneider
Herbert Allison “Coach” Schneider, MBH of the Cedar Way Bassets in Auburn, Ala., died on June 6.
He’d worked hard to create a solid, close-working cottontail pack. When he came to the National Basset Pack Trials at Aldie, Va., his hounds were a real pleasure to watch and usually in the ribbons. Friends in Maryland have taken on the pack.
Mr. Schneider was also a master farrier and the equestrian coach at Auburn University (Ga.). He was a member of the American Farriers Association, The Brotherhood of Working Farriers Association, and was a U.S. Navy veteran.
He is survived by former wife Emily Schneider of Columbus, Ga.; daughters Allison Schneider of Columbus and Mallin Hopkins of Upatoi, Ga.; three grandchildren; brothers Joseph, Ralph and George Schneider; sisters, Mary Lou Heckler and Ann Donaldson; and numerous nieces and nephews.
Donations in Mr. Schneider’s memory may be made to the American Heart Association. J.F.S.