Finding 10 legendary figures connected to the Saratoga Race Course is easy. Keeping that list to just 10 is the hard part.
And in that list, how many horses do you mention? How many jockeys? It’s not an easy task and one that will certainly provoke some argument, but here goes. Remember, this is a list of 10, not necessarily in any order.
1. John Morrissey
An Irish immigrant to this country in 1831 at the age of 2, Morrissey was a boxer, gang member, state senator and U.S. Congressman. He’s also the individual most responsible for the creation of Saratoga Race Course in 1863.
2. William R. Travers
In his 1887 obituary, the New York Times said he was “probably the most popular man in New York.” The man who helped Morrissey create the racetrack and served as its first president, Travers also had a major stakes race named after him way back in 1864.
3. Angel Cordero
A three-time winner of the Kentucky Derby, Cordero won the riding championship at Saratoga 14 times, including 11 in a row. Nicknamed the “King of Saratoga,” he was the first Puerto Rican to be named to the Racing Hall of Fame in 1988.
4. Jerry Bailey
A Hall of Famer who retired in 2006, Bailey had the honor of being the first jockey at Saratoga remembered with a bobblehead doll in July of 2007. He also won seven riding championships, second behind Cordero.
5. Stephen Stanford
There were two of them, both closely connected to the race track, and it was the grandson who helped spearhead a major beautification project in the 1920s. From Amsterdam, the family has a major stakes race named after it.
I’m not forgetting Secretariat or Man O’ War, but they both lost at Saratoga. In 1941, Whirlaway won the Triple Crown and then showed up at Saratoga and captured the Travers.
The New York-bred Horse of the Year in 1991, Fourstardave won a race at Saratoga for eight straight years from 1987-1994. He is buried in Clare Court at the track, one of just three horses to be honored with that distinction.
8. Rachel Alexandra
A filly, she won the 2009 Woodward Stakes at Saratoga against older male horses, holding off the late-charging Macho Again. Only five other fillies had ever started in the race’s 63 years, and only two finished in the money.
9. Jim Dandy
Now it’s a Grade II race at Saratoga, but in 1930 it was the name of a horse who posted an “upset for the ages.” Going off at 100-1 odds in the Travers Stakes, Jim Dandy, with Frank Baker up, defeated Triple Crown winner Gallant Fox by eight lengths.
10. Mary Lou Whitney
Her late husband C.V. “Sonny” Whitney was the third in his family to be closely associated with the track, and Marylou appreciates history. When her horse Birdstone won the 2004 Belmont, depriving Smarty Jones of the Triple Crown, Marylou apologized.
[Why we love Marylou Whitney]
GAZETTE COVERAGEEnsure access to everything we do, today and every day, check out our subscribe page at DailyGazette.com/Subscribe
More from The Daily Gazette: