Thirty star horses from the Saratoga Race Course’s century and a half of history will be immortalized this summer in a “Walk of Fame” outside the clubhouse entrance.
Granite stones will make up the Hoofprints Walk of Fame, which is part of the track’s 150th anniversary celebration, a yearlong recognition of the course’s historic milestone. The first class of inductees and their order on the ground was unveiled Tuesday morning in a ceremony at the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.
Horses were chosen by a select committee that examined their records at Saratoga Race Course. John Hendrickson, an honorary co-chairman of the Saratoga 150 committee and the initial brains behind this idea, said they had proposed an inaugural class of 20 horses when this idea was being discussed.
“There is just so much history in Saratoga … and there are so many greats to have raced. To do 20, we’d have a lot of years to catch up,” he said.
Expanding on that sentiment was Michael Veitch, a turf
writer who led the selection of the first 30 horses. “We have probably 50 or 70 more that belong on this list,” he said.
In the future, Hendrickson said, one or two horses will be added annually to the walk of fame. These selections will be made by a standing committee at the racing museum.
The first class includes some familiar names, like Affirmed, Alydar, Go for Wand, Man o’ War, Native Dancer, Secretariat, War Admiral and Whirlaway.
This project is a collaboration between the Saratoga 150 committee, the New York Racing Association and the racing museum. The walk of fame is part of 180 events scheduled for this year, including an ice cream social in Congress Park.
The walk of fame is expected to be installed along the walkway outside the clubhouse gates a week before opening day. Each horse is honored on the walkway with a granite plaque that names its sire, dam, owner, trainer and jockey as well as its birthday and significant wins at Saratoga.
After the horses were announced by Veitch, a blind selection process was held to decide where the horses’ plaques would appear on the walk.
Drawing from the Whitney Cup for the first selection spot was Saratoga 150 honorary co-chairwoman Marylou Whitney. She and her husband, Hendrickson, are the largest private benefactors of the Saratoga 150 celebration. She reached into the cup named for her family and pulled out a family-owned horse, Top Flight.
“This is embarrassing,” she said with a big smile on her face. Then other local dignitaries selected horses from the cup.
Whitney’s hope is that future generations of racing fans will be inspired and humbled by the great names they see when entering the track.
Whitney also formally invited everyone in the city to the ice cream social she’s helping to organize. “We’re looking to show the public a good time,” said Whitney, who was wearing the signature pink that marks many of her outfits during the summer, including a wide-brimmed pink hat.
Aside from remembering the city’s famous horses, Whitney also provided the crowd of local dignitaries and business people with her own memories of the city more than 50 years ago. She recounted her efforts to build up some excitement about the race course by inviting television crews to cover the races.
“I love Saratoga. I’ll do everything I can for this wonderful town and the racetrack,” Whitney said.
The additional inductees include Beldame, Chief’s Crown, Discovery, Duke of Magenta, Easy Goer, Eight Thirty, Emperor of Norfolk, Equipoise, Exterminator, Regret, Sky Beauty and Tom Fool.