Saratoga Springs

Marylou Whitney auction to benefit backstretch clinic

Prized personal items to be offered; proceeds will help construction of medical clinic for backstretch workers at Saratoga Race Course
Marylou Whitney, right, and husband John Hendrickson attend the 2015 Whitney Stakes Day at Saratoga.
Marylou Whitney, right, and husband John Hendrickson attend the 2015 Whitney Stakes Day at Saratoga.

Categories: News, Saratoga County, Sports

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Marylou Whitney’s devotion to helping backstretch workers at thoroughbred race tracks will continue with a deeply personal touch: an online auction of some of her prized possessions.

The popular philanthropist, known as the “Queen of Saratoga,” not only for her social gatherings and racing stable, but for her charitable work right up to her death at the age of 93 last year, made a special effort through the years to help the workers who tend to the racehorses every day.

The brainchild of her husband, John Hendrickson, the online auction will begin for preview only at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, with proceeds to fund the construction of a backstretch medical clinic at Saratoga Race Course. It will be operated by Saratoga Hospital and the Backstretch Employee Service Team (BEST).


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The website debuts Wednesday via a link to the auction site.  The auction action will begin at midnight on Monday, July 27, and will continue through 11:59 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 1, which is Whitney Day at the track. Bidding and “Buy It Now” options will be available.

Hendrickson donated about 1,500 items, which range from fine jewelry and his wife’s pristine 1985 red Jaguar XJ6 to more practical and affordable jewelry, clothes and furniture. Among the pieces in the fine jewelry category is a diamond choker necklace that Hendrickson said was especially dear to Marylou.

“As I began the difficult task of going through Marylou’s personal items at each of our homes, she seemed to speak to me,” Hendrickson said in a release. “No one shared her blessings and good fortune more than Marylou. No one was more dedicated to helping charities than Marylou … and so the idea was born. Her spirit of giving will live on—Marylou’s personal items are going for a greater good.”

Marylou’s generosity toward Saratoga Hospital is reflected in the fact that her name appears on the  Marylou Whitney and Desmond DelGiacco, M.D., Intensive Care Unit and the Whitney-Hendrickson Cardiovascular & Interventional Suite.

The auction is “a fitting partnership that reflects and strengthens the hospital’s long-standing relationship with Marylou,” Saratoga Hospital President and CEO Angelo Calbone said. “Once again, Saratoga Hospital owes a debt of gratitude to Marylou — and to John, who chose us as a beneficiary of this auction. We know how much the backstretch workers meant to Marylou, and we are honored to play a key role in making sure they continue to receive the care they need and deserve.”


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The current medical clinic consists of a trailer that BEST launched in 2005, with which the hospital partnered in 2009.

Since then, a team of bilingual doctors, nurses, and other Saratoga Hospital healthcare professionals have provided primary care, disease management and prevention, and other services.

“We were thrilled to learn that John committed to building this new state-of-the-art facility, as a tribute to the healing spirit that Marylou exuded,” BEST Executive Director Paul Ruchames said. “The welfare of backstretch workers was so close to her heart, and they loved her. The public’s participation in this auction will appropriately honor her legacy of kindness to everyone.”

Other featured items include designer evening gowns; couture ensembles and cocktail dresses by Bill Blass, Arnold Scassi, and Chanel; evening purses by Judith Lieber Couture and Chanel; fur coats; hats; vintage dresses; and designer scarves by Hermès and Tiffany.

The new website features the Saratoga icon’s background and accomplishments, a video, photographs, as well as a complete listing, with photographs, of all her personal items that will be featured — several with Marylou wearing the outfit or accessory. There is a link to bring shoppers to the auction categories and individual items, and a link for those wishing to make a tax-deductible contribution.  Additionally, all will have the option to register for the auction in advance, to receive bidding notifications during the auction via text alert, or to ask questions via email.

Whitney was inducted into the National Racing Museum Hall of Fame in the Pillars of the Turf category on Aug. 2, 2019, two weeks after she died. Among the top horses that she bred and raced was Birdstone, who won the 2004 Belmont Stakes to stop Smarty Jones’ Triple Crown bid, then won the Travers at Saratoga.

Her legacy continues at the track in the form of the Backstretch Appreciation Dinners, which evolved into daily events for backstretch workers, a permanent backstretch event pavilion named for her and the Whitney Viewing Stand at the Oklahoma Training Track.

Reach Mike MacAdam at [email protected]. Follow on Twitter @Mike_MacAdam.

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