Was there ever any doubt? On Friday, August 2, The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs will be inducting 16 new members into its hall of fame, including, maybe, the most famous Saratogian of them all, Marylou Whitney.
The 93-year-old Whitney, whose husband John Hendrickson is the national racing museum’s current president, has not only made a name for herself in the social and philanthropic circles of Saratoga Springs, but also at its illustrious racetrack. Following the death of her husband, Cornelius “Sonny” Vanderbilt Whitney in 1992, Marylou has been an active owner and breeder in the racing community, buying back mares—including Dear Birdie—that would end up becoming the basis for her Marylou Whitney Stables. Dear Birdie turned out to have a winning bloodline, as she was the dam of Birdstone, who took the 2004 Belmont Stakes and Saratoga Race Course’s jewel, the Travers Stakes; and Bird Town, who set a speed record during her win at the 2003 Kentucky Oaks (with the win, Whitney became the lone woman to ever breed and own a Kentucky Oaks champ).
Aside from being a winning breeder and owner, Whitney has also been a generous donor within the greater racing community. Whitney was a founding member of the The Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, and helped open the Secretariat Center at the Kentucky Horse Park. She’s also worked tirelessly in connecting retired Thoroughbreds with new owners and been active in charity work for backstretch workers. For her legacy in the racing world, in 2003, Whitney was awarded the Ogden Phipps Award by the New York Turf Writers; and in 2010, she was honored with the Eclipse Award of Merit.
“Marylou Whitney is an icon in Saratoga Springs and one of racing’s most respected and beloved ambassadors,” says Brien Bouyea, the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame and Communications Director. “Her induction is the culmination of her commitment to the sport and the integrity she has brought to the game. Both racing and Saratoga Springs have benefitted from her generosity, passion, and intelligent leadership.”
In addition to Whitney, the hall of fame will also be adding Jockey Craig Perret, who won a career 4,415 races between 1967 and 2005, including the 1987 Belmont and 1990 Kentucky Derby; champion racehorses Royal Delta, My Juliet and Waya; and racing titans James E. “Ted” Bassett III, Christopher T. Chenery, Richard L. “Dick” Duchossois, William S. Farish, John Hettinger, James R. Keene, Frank E. “Jimmy” Kilroe, Gladys Mills Phipps, Ogden Phipps, Warren Wright, Sr. and Helen Hay Whitney. The latter, another Whitney woman with champion racing ties, became a leading horse owner, following the death of her husband, William Payne Whitney, in 1927, in both the steeplechase and flat track divisions (among her 79 overall winners, horses of Whitney’s won the Derby, Belmont and Travers).
The induction ceremony will take place at 10:30am on August 2 at the Fasig-Tipton sales pavilion. The event is free and open to the public. Legendary race-caller Tom Durkin will serve as the induction’s master of ceremonies.