SARATOGA SPRINGS — Marylou Whitney, the beloved Saratoga Springs socialite and philanthropist who died Friday at 93, was remembered not only for her philanthropy but her contributions to thoroughbred racing.
Her Marylou Whitney Stables recorded nine graded stakes victories and saddled more than 190 winners from 2000-19. In 2003, she became the first woman in 80 years to own and breed a Kentucky Oaks winner with Bird Town, trained by Nick Zito. Whitney and Zito teamed up in 2004 with Birdstone, who won the Belmont Stakes and the Travers.
Whitney began her seven-decade involvement in horse racing with her late husband C.V. Whitney, who died in 1993.
She was also a strong advocate for the backstretch workers at Saratoga Race Course, creating the Saratoga Backstretch Appreciation Program in 2008 with her husband, John Hendrickson. She also helped start the Maker’s Mark Secretariat Center for retired racehorses in Kentucky.
“An avid horsewoman and true lover of the sport, Mrs. Marylou Whitney was one of thoroughbred racing’s greatest ambassadors,” NYRA CEO and President Dave O’Rourke said in a statement. “As owner of her eponymous Saratoga stable, Marylou was a top breeder and a committed supporter of the thoroughbred industry, who delivered some of the most memorable moments in New York racing.”
“Marylou Whitney embodied all of the best qualities of the sport to which she devoted her time, heart and resources,” said Alex Waldrop, President and CEO of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association in a statement.
Whitney was presented with an Eclipse Award of Merit in 2010 for her contributions to racing, and was elected to the Jockey Club in 2011. She will be inducted into the National Horse Racing Hall of Fame on Aug. 2 in Saratoga Springs.
Down to earth
Glens Falls Post-Star sportswriter Will Springstead, who has covered the Saratoga meet for 25 years, recalled a funny incident involving Marylou Whitney years ago that showed her good humor.
“In one of my first couple of years covering Saratoga, ‘95 or ‘96, she was going to present the trophy to the connections of the Alabama winner in the old winner’s circle in the dirt,” Springstead said. “But it rained like crazy before the race, leaving the track a muddy mess. As the winning horse came back that way and she was making her way toward there, NYRA had sent the word over the walkie-talkies to get boards, towels, whatever it could to not let Marylou get dirty.
“As three or four workers started to lay towels down in the mud, she patted one of them on the shoulder and loudly said, ‘Oh, don’t worry about it,’ and marched past the towels through the mud to greet the horse, jockey and trainer. The workers looked like they feared for their job security, but she smiled from ear to ear.”
With four of seven entered horses scratching, Regal Glory overtook Blowout and Dogtag — all three saddled by trainer Chad Brown — to win the 24th running of the Grade 3, $150,000 Lake George Stakes on Friday at Saratoga Race Course.
Regal Glory, with jockey Luis Saez in the irons, fended off Blowout’s final-furlong push to win the 1-mile race in 1 minute, 36.23 seconds.
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“I just wanted to move her out a little bit because she has a big turn of foot in the stretch and everything was perfect,” said Saez, who has won the last three stakes at the Spa. “She always tries hard. Last time was an impressive win, and I really liked her today. I knew that I would have horse in the stretch.”
Regal Glory returned $6.60 on a $2 win wager, and has never finished worse than second in six career starts.
It was the fourth time since June that Brown trained the top three finishers in a stakes at a NYRA track, and the second time in six days at Saratoga.
War of Will dazzles
Preakness winner War of Will looked sharp in a Friday morning workout at Saratoga Race Course, as he prepares for the Grade 2, $600,000 Jim Dandy on July 27.
Jockey Tyler Gaffalione, who was aboard for War of Will’s 49.33-second half-mile breeze, said it was “one of his best works to date.
“He seemed to love the track, handled it real well and was full of energy,” Gaffalione said. “Every week, he’s just getting stronger and stronger. We’re really looking forward to his next race.”
Trainer Mark Casse was equally impressed.
“If you want to see poetry in motion for a horse, and what you would like to see out of a racehorse, he’s what it is,” Casse said. “He’s the entire package.”
With Saturday’s racing at Saratoga canceled by the forecast for excessive heat, the entire card has been moved to Sunday.
Sunday’s 13-race schedule includes Saturday’s card, plus a steeplechase allowance race that was postponed Wednesday by sloppy track conditions.
Among Sunday’s highlights is the Grade 3, $200,000 Shuvee, the final race of the day, a 9-furlong race for fillies and mares that features Grade 1 winner Wow Cat, one of two entrants for trainer Chad Brown. Electric Forest is cross-entered in Saturday’s Grade 1 Molly Pitcher at Monmouth Park. Jockey Jose Ortiz will continue on board Wow Cat, while Hall of Famer Javier Castellano is slated for the Electric Forest mount.