9 Reasons To Love ‘The Queen Of Saratoga,’ Marylou Whitney

From Gotham to Hollywood, Saratoga's favorite daughter blazed an amazing trail.

Marylou Whitney, with her husband John Hendrickson, on one of the many Opening Days at Saratoga Race Course they attended together. (Cathy Duffy)

In the 1980s and ’90s, I defined the “good life” in Saratoga Springs as eating at Compton’s and PJ’s from time to time, occasionally getting treated to an ice cream sundae at Stewart’s and acquiring heaps of baseball cards at The Vault. (Like I said, life was good!) But let’s be real for a second: Just 15 minutes away from where I grew up on Second Street was the definition of what Robin Leach was really talking about. No Saratogian, no matter how big their North Broadway mansion is, will ever even approach the fabulous life the late Marylou Whitney lived in her 93 years on earth. Short of catching a glimpse of her at the track or making her grand entrance at the annual Whitney Gala, none of us mere mortals could ever imagine what it was like actually being Marylou. Throughout the years, though, we got more than our fair share of teases at her amazing life. What follows is a handy crib-sheet, featuring nine examples of Marylou Whitney’s wild, fascinating journey. There will never be another Marylou Whitney. Not now. Not ever.

1. When she was a single woman in New York City, Marylou once garnered the attention of gossip columnists when she rode a horse from Central Park to a nearby supper club, tying her steed to a sturdy fence before enjoying a night out with a friend.

2. In 1958, Marylou—billed as Mary Hosford—made her silver screen debut (her only appearance in a motion picture) as Anne Love Price in The Missouri Traveler. In one scene, seemingly stripped from her own headlines, she has a public argument with a dastardly man about where he’s tying up his horse.

3. Whitney owned more than 10 residences in her lifetime, including her main home, the 135-acre Cady Hill house in Saratoga; a 550-acre farm in Lexington; swanky addresses on Fifth Avenue in New York City, in Palm Beach, FL and in Spain; as well as a 50,000-acre estate in the Adirondacks known as Whitney Park.

4. Nodding to her proclivity for making a grand entrance in something other than a limousine, Whitney kicked off the 1988 Saratoga summer meet at Saratoga Race Course by riding in on an elephant.

5. Whitney was a client of Canadian high-fashion designer Arnold Scaasi, whose A-List clientele included everyone from First Lady Mamie Eisenhower and philanthropist/socialite Brooke Astor to superstar singer and actress Barbra Streisand.

6. Whitney’s third husband, John Hendrickson, once claimed that it was his idea to sign a prenuptial agreement with her, because if anything happened, he didn’t “want Marylou to come after his tennis racquets.”

7. At Whitney Galas held in different years in Saratoga, all at the Canfield Casino, Marylou Whitney made her entrance in a double-decker bus, hot-air balloon and coronation coach.

8. In a “postcard” to Women’s Wear Daily in 2003, Whitney wrote about a weekend in her life during track season in Saratoga. It included a private screening of Seabiscuit, lunch at the Meeting Room (a private club adjacent to the racetrack), dinner at the Wishing Well and an afterparty at her Saratoga estate, which took place inside a Comanche Indian-built teepee.

9. One year, Whitney was making her big entrance at a Wizard Of Oz-themed Whitney Gala, when she lost a $250,000 emerald from her Glinda The Good Witch costume. A Saratoga construction worker later located it, returned it and got a $5000 finder’s fee, along with a seat in a private box at the racetrack.

Will Levith

Will Levith is Editorial Director at Saratoga Living and Capital Region Living magazine. He's a native Saratogian and graduate of Saratoga Springs High School. His work has been published by Esquire, Playboy, Condé Nast Traveler, Men's Health, RealClearLife and many others. He lives in Troy with his wife, Laura, and dog, Esopus.


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