During the sticky summer of 1960, the smell of success must have permeated the air around Cornelius Vanderbilt “Sonny” Whitney, who was in the heart of what would end up his most successful horse racing year.
Shown here making the rounds in the box area of the Saratoga Race Course Clubhouse with his wife, Marylou (chatting with Mrs. Edward S. Moore, owner of Circle M Farm near Sonny’s own Kentucky stables), Sonny was the proud owner of Tompion, the champion Thoroughbred that had already won the Santa Anita Stakes, the Blue Grass Stakes and the Forerunner Stakes, before cleaning up the Bernard Baruch Stakes early in The Spa’s season. Son of the mighty Tom Fool, Tompion would go on to clench the Travers and finish off the season with a Malibu Stakes win at Santa Anita. These trips to the winner’s circle helped Sonny’s C. V. Whitney Thoroughbred Racing Stable, which was started by his grandfather and carried on by his father before he took it over in 1930, win a whopping $1,039,091, the most of any stable that year. In fact, until then, only Calumet Farm, a dominant stable for the previous 20 years, had ever broken the million-dollar mark. And that wasn’t all. He also finished the year as its leading breeder, pulling in $1,193,181—10 percent more than that of the second-place breeder. “The union of these two accomplishments in one stable,” wrote Sports Illustrated, “is as if Charles Lindbergh had built the Spirit of St. Louis with his own hands before he flew it to Paris.”
Before those year-end tallies, Sonny and Marylou enjoyed an epic August in Saratoga that included Marylou’s first-ever Whitney Gala, the infamous charity soirée that would dominate the local society pages for decades. Then new to the scene, having married Sonny just two years prior, our beloved Marylou—our “Queen of Saratoga”—was just beginning her love affair with horse racing…and Saratoga Springs.