Saratoga loses a legend

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Minutes before the start of Friday’s fifth race, infield tote boards and television screens throughout Saratoga Race Course dimmed. In a break from the usual display of odds, will-pays and statistics, the monitors instead presented a photo of a beaming Marylou Whitney on a black backdrop with the text “1925 – 2019” underneath.

The loudspeakers at the track crackled to life as Larry Collmus announced to Saratoga and the world the passing of the iconic socialite, soon-to-be Pillar of the Turf and generous philanthropist. A moment of silence was held in Whitney’s honor as racing fans on site and beyond mourned the loss of one of the sport’s treasures.

Born Marie Louise Schroeder Dec. 24, 1925, Marylou Whitney grew up in Kansas City, Mo. She attended Southwest High School and the University of Iowa before embarking on a career as an actress, appearing in movies, TV and radio.

Marylou married Cornelius Vanderbilt “Sonny” Whitney in 1958. She embraced the world of horse racing that had been engrained in the Whitney family for generations and Marylou and C. V. played a pivotal role in keeping Saratoga Race Course open in the 1970s. The family’s contributions to the community also included the founding of Saratoga Performing Arts Center and the National Museum of Dance.

After the death of C. V. Whitney in 1992, Marylou Whitney took on a larger role in racing. She founded her own stable, Marylou Whitney Stable, and worked to preserve the bloodlines sewn by the Whitney family dating back over a century.

“Obviously the most important and so incredibly admirable aspect of Marylou in terms of being an owner and breeder was that she had the respect for the Whitneys’ bloodlines, the old Whitney bloodlines from many generations back, including her husband’s,” said racing historian Ed Bowen, chairman of the Racing Hall of Fame’s nominating committee. “Even though (C.V. Whiney) didn’t think it was something he wanted to leave for her to have to deal with, she then went back and repurchased into those families that her husband had nurtured for years.”

To read the rest of our Marylou Whitney tribute, download Saturday’s digital edition of The Saratoga Special presented by Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners