SARATOGA SPRINGS — The late Marylou Whitney was honored throughout Friday at Saratoga Race Course, first in the ceremony at the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, where she was inducted as a Pillar of the Turf, and later in a ceremony renaming the track’s clubhouse entrance after her.
Before the Hall of Fame ceremony began at the Fasig-Tipton sales pavilion, a moment of silence was held for Whitney, a prominent owner, breeder, winner of the Eclipse Award of Merit in 2010 and known philanthropist.
John Hendrickson, husband of the late Whitney and president of the museum and hall of fame, brought one of the pink Marylou Whitney roses he commissioned up with him to the podium when he accepted Whitney’s honor.
“So she would be with us here in spirit,” he said.
“She told me she wanted to dedicate her induction to the horses and the people that loved them, especially the unsung heroes, the backstretch workers,” Hendrickson added. “She said the sport of horse racing gave her the most incredible life, and she was extremely grateful. So I want to thank all of you for loving Marylou. She loved the sport and all of you with her entire heart.”
Later in the day, the clubhouse entrance on the Nelson Avenue side of the track was renamed the Marylou Whitney Entrance. New York Racing Association CEO and President David O’Rourke, Saratoga Springs Mayor Meg Kelly, NYRA Chaplain Humberto Chavez and Hendrickson spoke at the ceremony. Two jockey statues adorned in the Eton blue and brown silks representing Whitney’s stable colors flank the entrance. They commemorate the 2004 wins of Whitney’s colt Birdstone in the Belmont Stakes and Travers Stakes.
“Her smile and her generosity will always be remembered in each and every one of our hearts, especially the backstretch community,” said Chavez, who stood with several backstretch workers.
“Marylou had a lot of love, but Saratoga was her first love,” Hendrickson said. “She held Saratoga dear to her. She was all about welcoming. She welcomed everyone into her heart.
Kelly noted that the city will rename Centennial Park in her honor. Located at the base of Union Avenue, the park is the home to the statue of Native Dancer, commissioned by Whitney and Hendrickson and donated to the Saratoga Springs residents.
More on the Hall
Legendary track announcer Tom Durkin, the master of ceremonies at the Hall of Fame induction, joked at the beginning that, “My job this morning is to get you out of here in time to bet the double.” Despite having 16 inductees, he did so with 22 minutes to first post.
Retired jockey Craig Perret was the lone contemporary human inductee. Winner of 4,415 races and the Eclipse Award for top jockey in 1990, he won the Kentucky Derby, Belmont Stakes, three Breeders’ Cup races, three Haskells, two Travers and two Queens Plates.
Perret made the point during his speech that he was a country boy from Louisiana and easy to please, but that big moments just kept happening in his career.
“Finally I’m off the also-eligible and look where I am now,” said Perret, who added that he enjoyed his moments with the horses the most.
“You want to win for your friends, but when they said, ‘riders up,’ it was you and the horse for the next 10 minutes, and I was the only one that could make this happen.”
Retired jockey Tony Black, the regular rider of inductee My Juliet, thanked Jim Maloney, the horse’s groom who was in attendance, because “they don’t get much recognition.” He also expressed his deep sorrow that he never got to put his hands on her neck and down her mane — “the way we communicate with horses” — one more time before she died in 2001.
Other inductees were horses Royal Delta and Waya, as well as Pillars of the Turf Helen Hay Whitney, “Jimmy” Kilroe, Warren Wright Sr., William Farish, Dick Duchossois, James Keene, Gladys Mills Phipps, Ogden Phipps and John Hettinger.
In the first year of the Turf Tiara, Concrete Rose is making it look like it’s hers to lose.
Having won the Belmont Oaks Invitational by 2 ¾ lengths on July 6, the daughter of Twirling Candy won the second leg of the series for 3-year-old fillies in cruising to a 4 3/4-length win in the $750,000 Saratoga Oaks Invitational.
Under Julien Leparoux, Concrete Rose inherited the lead and went an easy half-mile in 51.41 seconds and three-quarters of a mile in 1:15.93 That allowed her to keep plenty in the tank, and when Leparoux asked for it with a furlong left in the 1 3/16-mile race, she gave it willingly.
“I was pretty happy when they hung up a half-mile in 51 and three-quarters in (1:)16 because she’s a pretty fast horse, and they turned it into a sprint for home. She had done nothing when they hit the half-mile pole,” winning trainer Rusty Arnold said.
Arnold said the Grade I Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (Oct. 12, 1 ⅛ miles) at Keeneland intrigues him, but he acknowledged that the third race in the Tiara, the $750,000 Jockey Club Oaks on Sept. 7 at Belmont Park may be hard to pass up.
In another stakes, Casa Creed captured the Grade II National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame, giving Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott his record sixth win in the stakes.
Breaking a track record is becoming a regular occurance. Macagone, an 8-year-old gelding, dominated the field in winning the fourth race in a track-record 1:33.13 at a mile on the firm inner turf course. Jose Lezcano rode for trainer Jason Servis.
The previous record was 1:33.25, set Aug. 9, 2014, by Seek Again.
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