For some Saratogians, the late Marylou Whitney was not only Saratoga’s greatest champion, philanthropist and socialite, but also a rock star. She had fans the world over—but especially here in Saratoga. And while dribs and drabs of her estate have made it to auction since her passing last summer at the age of 93, the largest portion of it yet is set to hit the auction block this summer, for a good cause, no less.
Starting on July 27, the one-year anniversary of Whitney’s passing, and ending on August 1, “Marylou Whitney Day” at Saratoga Race Course, an online auction that includes more than 1,500 of Whitney’s belongings will be launched to benefit the future home of the backstretch medical clinic, to be operated at the track by Saratoga Hospital and the Backstretch Employee Service Team (BEST). Dubbed the Marylou Whitney Collection, it includes big-ticket items such as Marylou’s 1985 Jaguar XJ6 and a diamond choker necklace gifted to her by her husband, John Hendrickson; couture ensembles and designer evening gowns; and vintage hats, purses and scarves from labels like Chanel, Hermès and Tiffany.
The idea for the auction was Hendrickson’s, with the thought that his late wife would’ve wanted her worldly possessions to benefit others. “No one shared her blessings and good fortune more than Marylou,” says Hendrickson. “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.”
That “greater good” is the backstretch medical clinic, which was first launched out of a trailer by BEST in 2005, offering onsite care to the track’s backstretch workers, including groomers, jockeys, farriers, veterinarians and others. The money raised by the auction will go towards funding the construction of a new, state-of-the-art facility. BEST’s Executive Director, Paul Ruchames, said of the auction: “The welfare of backstretch workers was so close to [Whitney’s] heart, and they loved her. The public’s participation in this auction will appropriately honor her legacy of kindness to everyone.”
Interested bidders can now preview the collection via its website, with the live auction beginning on Monday, July 27, at midnight and continuing through Saturday, August 1 at 11:59 pm. Buyers can register early and opt to receive bidding notifications via text alert. Bidders can also email in questions about the lots and will have the option to use either “bidding” or “buy it now” features on the website.