SARATOGA SPRINGS -- The New York Racing Association and city of Saratoga Springs on Monday announced plans to honor the legacy of Marylou Whitney, who died July 19 at the age of 93.
NYRA will offer special recognition focused on this Saturday's Grade I Whitney Stakes, named for her family. The celebrated philanthropist, thoroughbred owner and breeder, and National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame inductee will have the clubhouse entrance at Saratoga Race Course named in her honor.
The "Marylou Whitney Entrance" will be flanked by two jockey statues adorned in the Eton blue and brown silks representing the classic colors of Marylou Whitney Stables, NYRA officials said. The statues will commemorate the 2004 victories of Whitney’s colt Birdstone in the prestigious Belmont Stakes and Travers Stakes.
This coming Friday Whitney will be inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, an honor already scheduled prior to her death. The induction will take place at 10:30 a.m. at the Fasig-Tipton sales pavilion. The ceremony is open to the public and free to attend.
NYRA will formally celebrate Whitney on Saturday in conjunction with her family’s namesake Saratoga Race Course race: The Grade 1, $1 million Whitney. “Marylou Whitney Day” will include a special video tribute to the “Queen of Saratoga.” Fans will be encouraged to wear pink in celebration of Whitney and her signature hue.
“Marylou was integral in making our summer meet at Saratoga the success that it is today. It is truly fitting to have her name serve as a warm welcome to the many racing fans who pass through our Clubhouse gates each summer,” said NYRA CEO & President Dave O’Rourke. “Marylou’s impact on racing and the community as a whole cannot be overstated. She was a passionate horsewoman who demonstrated unmatched generosity and grace. We look forward to honoring her memory while celebrating her many contributions to the Spa.”
The city of Saratoga Springs, meanwhile, announced plans to rename Centennial Park as “Marylou Whitney Park.” Located at the base of Union Avenue adjoining Congress Park, the park is home to the statue of Native Dancer. The park was built in 2015 with funding provided by Whitney and her husband John Hendrickson, who commissioned the statue and donated it as a gift to the residents of Saratoga Springs.
“Marylou Whitney is synonymous with everything that is Saratoga Springs: the Saratoga Race Course, its backstretch, the Canfield Casino and Saratoga Hospital, to name a few," said Saratoga Springs Mayor Meg Kelly. "Whether grand giving or anonymous donation, her generosity to this region knew no bounds. Some people call Marylou Whitney the savior of Saratoga Springs. Some consider her the Queen of Saratoga. To family, friends, and myself, she is the soul of Saratoga Springs. Thank you to Marylou Whitney who touched this, and so much, in the city of Saratoga Springs."
Born Marie Louise Schroeder, Whitney discovered a passion for racing upon her marriage to Cornelius Vanderbilt "Sonny" Whitney in 1958. Their stable embarked on a winning tradition, with Tompion capturing the Travers in 1960 and Chompion winning the Mid-Summer Derby in 1968.
Following Sonny’s death in 1992, Whitney opened her own stable, which quickly became synonymous with racing excellence. Its products included Bird Town, which won the Kentucky Oaks in 2003, and Birdstone, which won the Belmont and Travers in 2004. In all, Marylou Whitney Stables earned nine graded stakes victories among more than 190 winners from 2000-2019.
Mrs. Whitney was presented with an Eclipse Award of Merit in 2010 for her contributions to racing and was elected to the Jockey Club in 2011.