Horse owner, breeder, and philanthropist Marylou Whitney will be honored with an Eclipse Award of Merit for a "lifetime of outstanding achievement in Thoroughbred racing," according to an announcement Jan. 5 from the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, Daily Racing Form, and the National Turf Writers And Broadcasters.
Whitney will receive the Eclipse Award of Merit on Monday, Jan. 17 at the 40th annual Eclipse Awards ceremony at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach in Miami Beach, Fla.
"I am honored and humbled to even be mentioned in the same sentence as the past winners," Whitney, known to many as the "Queen of Saratoga," said in a statement. "It has been a privilege to be involved with a sport that has given me so much joy. From the foaling barn to the backstretch, and from the parties to the winner’s circle, I have cherished sharing my life with the racing community."
During the 20th Century, the Whitney family, under the direction of her second husband, C.V Whitney, was one of the most successful racing stables in North America. C.V. Whitney dispersed his breeding stock in the 1980s and died in 1992.
Marylou Whitney began a program to rebuild her racing and breeding business by locating and buying back mares that had been bred and/or owned by the Whitneys. Among the mares she found and bought was Dear Birdie, who proved to be the foundation for Marylou Whitney Stables.
The Broodmare of the Year in 2004, Dear Birdie is the dam of Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner Birdstone and champion filly Bird Town, who won the 2003 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I).
Whitney is perhaps best known for her lifelong association with Saratoga Race Course and the city of Saratoga Springs, where she hosted many benefits and gala celebrations and in recent years has underwritten, along with her husband John Hendrickson, a backstretch workers program.
Whitney was one of the founding members of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation and was the major contributor to the Secretariat Center at the Kentucky Horse Park. She has supported efforts to find retired racehorses new careers once their racing days have concluded. Attached to each Jockey Club registration paper of every horse she breeds is a message indicating how to contact her if one of her horses needs a home.
She also donated $2.5 million for the Marylou Whitney and John Hendrickson Cancer Facility for Women at the Markey Cancer Center, which opened in 2002.