Randolph Dashiell Rouse was more than three months into his 100th year when he died, after a brief illness, on April 7, 2017, at the Virginia Hospital Center. Randy, as he was known, is survived by Michele O’Brien Rouse, his wife of 34 years. They lived in Arlington and kept horses on their farm in Lenah.
Other survivors include a brother, William D. Rouse of Alexandria, as well as nieces, nephews and many friends and kindred sporting enthusiasts.
Born December 30, 1916, in Smithfield, he was raised in Newport News, Virginia. After graduating in 1939 from Washington & Lee University, he served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. In 1947, he founded Randolph D. Rouse Enterprises, a construction and investment firm, in Northern Virginia.
Before long, Rouse joined Fairfax Hunt. He became the Master of Foxhounds in 1961, serving in that capacity for the rest of his life. Several years ago, he helped facilitate the merger with Loudoun West into Loudoun Fairfax Hunt.
Rouse enjoyed the “fast lane” of Thoroughbred horses and had a passion for foxhunting and racing. He was a true sportsman, accomplished horseman, and a talented and very competitive amateur jockey — the sporting world may never know another one like him.
Rouse wore all the hats: owner, trainer as well as the mandatory protective skull cap for jockeys. His lifetime record as an owner, according to racing announcer Will O’Keefe’s website, CentralEntryOffice.com, spans 23 pages, detailing 986 lifetime starts, both sanctioned and point-to-points, that yielded 169 wins, 149 seconds and 135 thirds. His trainer record is a little shorter, but not by that much.
Racing as an owner-rider on the Virginia Point-to-Point circuit from 1967-1983, Rouse made 126 starts, winning 57 and placing second 25 times with 12 third place finishes. He garnered four Leading Rider Over Fences titles and 10 Owner-Rider Timber Championships — two of them with the incomparable Cinzano.
Cinzano had been ruled off from racing under rules on the flat and at sanctioned steeplechases, an innocent equine victim of switched identities and insurance fraud perpetrated by the vet who imported the Uruguayan horse of the year and a look-alike dud. It was a huge scandal at the time but had nothing to do with Rouse, who gave the great Thoroughbred a job. He trained Cinzano to jump, foxhunt, and race over timber in the Seven Corners Owner-Rider series on the point-to-point circuit. Cinzano won 21 times in 30 starts, including two wins and one second with Rouse’s wife, Michele.
Rouse began his amateur jockey career as a winner at the Fairfax Races, which he helped to organize and chaired for more than 30 years. He won his 1967 debut aboard Frosted Prince in the Amateur Flat in September and triumphed in his final race aboard Cousin Wes in the Owner-Rider Timber at the Fairfax Hunt Point-to-Point in April 1983. In fact, as a rider, Rouse was undefeated in his last 12 races, spanning three seasons and Cinzano was his mount for 11 of those wins, all but the final one aboard Cousin Wes. Cinzano crossed finish lines some 20 to 50 lengths ahead of the rest.
Rouse enjoyed a storied run on the sanctioned circuit, starting in 1960 when his Ricacho won the Virginia Gold Cup at the old Broadview course in Warrenton. He harvested many year-end awards with the Virginia Steeplechase Association, including Leading Owner in 1988 and ten flat, timber and hurdle championships. Rouse and Cinzano (Legendary Horse) were inducted into the VSA Hall of Fame in 2007; likewise, Ricacho, honored in 2014 as a Legendary Horse.
Rouse set the official record two times for oldest American ever to train a Thoroughbred winner and he accomplished this feat in his own unique way: with the same horse. In 2014, he was 97 when he saddled Hishi Soar, the winner of the claiming hurdle at Montpelier Races, thus breaking the record set in 2006 by a 95-year-old California trainer. At the age of 99, Rouse broke his own record when Hishi Soar won the featured race, the Daniel Van Cleef Memorial optional allowance hurdle, at the 2016 Foxfield Spring Races.
This year, on April 2, just five days before his demise, Rouse was 100 when he set his third “oldest American ever” record with Hishi Soar’s victory in the Open Hurdle at Orange County Hounds Point-to-Point. Unfortunately, because point-to-points don’t run under Jockey Club rules, Rouse’s third record-breaking win based on age doesn’t count officially. All the same, the legendary Randy Rouse scored a three-peat as the oldest trainer in North America to win a horse race.
Elected as the president of the National Steeplechase Association (1971-1974), Rouse and his enthusiasm for country race meetings served the sport and the NSA well. Younger generations of foxhunters won’t remember the volunteer “brush parties” to cut cedar, haul it to the hunt’s racecourse, and pack the brush jump boxes and trimming them for hurdle races, but that’s the labor-intensive way it was done in the early 70s even at jump meets like Saratoga. Rouse was instrumental in initiating the development of a synthetic hurdle, which could be hauled from course to course. The “National Fence” has been used since Rouse’s last year as president.
In January, the NSA honored Rouse with jump racing’s highest accolade, the Ambrose F. Clark Award, which recognizes individuals who have done the most to promote, improve and encourage the growth and welfare of American steeplechasing. Rouse’s leadership proved valuable in the 1970s, and there’s no doubt that the National Fence was both innovative and timely.
Rouse was one of Virginia’s best, a charming southern gentleman with a ready wit, who enjoyed playing his saxophone at parties. He was a good and loyal friend who inspired loyalty. He delighted in showing people good sport in the hunt field. He loved foxhunting and rode to hounds well into his mid-80s, but even after he stopped galloping around the countryside, he followed in his truck, first at the wheel, later in the passenger seat. He lived life to the fullest at a great pace.
The family requests that, in lieu of flowers, contributions be made to Middleburg Humane Foundation (4094 Whiting Road, Marshall, VA 20115), Best Friends Animal Sanctuary (5001 Angel Canyon Road, Kanab, Utah 84741-5000), or a favorite charity. Randy Rouse was laid to rest in a private family ceremony in Smithfield, VA.
With appreciation to Don Clippinger whose tribute and related news stories published by the National Steeplechase Association contributed to this article and to Norman Fine of foxhuntinglife.com for pointing out that Randy Rouse broke the record three times as the oldest American ever to win a race.