The Whitney…Marylou

This Saturday the Saratoga Race Course will host the 91st running of the Whitney Stakes.  The Daily Racing Blog would be remiss if we didn’t talk about the Queen of Saratoga– Marylou Whitney, who passed away July 19th, at the age of 93.

For seven decades, Mrs. Whitney was among the most successful owners in thoroughbred racing.

In 1958 she married Cornelius Vanderbilt “Sonny” Whitney, one of the founders of the National Museum of Racing, as well as Pan American Airlines.

The family’s contributions to racing went beyond the track.  In the 1970s’ the Whitneys’ helped convince the New York Racing Association to keep Saratoga Race Course open as a viable part of its racing calendar at a time when wagering and attendance sagged.

Their efforts and long-term vision continue to reap the benefits, as the Saratoga meet attracts more than one million fans annually.

Beyond racing, the Whitneys’ made a huge impact in the Saratoga community.  In 1966 they founded the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, which continues to host world-class musical and dance performances to this day, helping turn Saratoga into a true summer destination for tourists.

Following C.V. Whitney’s death in 1992 at age 93, Mrs. Whitney opened her own stable, which garnered industry-wide acclaim.

Her Eton blue and brown silks quickly becoming synonymous with racing excellence.

In 2003, BIRD TOWN, trained by Nick Zito, made Whitney the first woman in 80 years to own and breed a Kentucky Oaks Winner.

Whitney and Zito continued to make history in 2004 when BIRDSTONE Won the Belmont Stakes, ending the Triple Crown bid of SMARTY JONES and then going on to Win the Travers Stakes with BIRDSTONE.

In all, Marylou Whitney Stables earned nine Graded Stakes Victories and campaigned more than 190 winners from 2000-2019.

An indelible part of Saratoga’s history, the Whitney legacy can be seen all over the City of Saratoga Springs.  Including along famed Union Avenue outside of Congress Park, where in 2015 Whitney gifted a statue of NATIVE DANCER that has become a landmark at the start of the street where the famed racetrack sits.

That same year, NYRA enshrined Whitney in the Saratoga Walk of Fame, where the most legendary trainers, jockeys and owners in The Spa’s rich history are honored.

Said current NYRA CEO and President Dave O’Rourke; “Marylou’s passion for racing was only matched by her love for the City of Saratoga Springs and her support for the backstretch community.”

He went on to say; “Her generosity was unparalleled and the list of her contributions is endless. Saratoga would not be the destination it is today without the esteemed leadership, dedication and support of Marylou.  Her love of this sport and city will have a lasting impact on generations to come.”

On Friday the Daily Racing Blog will take a closer look at the Grade 1, million dollar, Whitney Stakes.

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