Eclipse Award of Merit going to Marylou Whitney

Jan 5th, 2011 | By TrackSide View | Category: Articles, Eclipse Awards

NTRA release

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA), Daily Racing Form and the National Turf Writers And Broadcasters today announced that Marylou Whitney, for her extraordinary service as an owner, breeder, and for her incredible generosity and support of philanthropic causes, will be honored with the Eclipse Award of Merit for a lifetime of outstanding achievement in Thoroughbred racing.

Mrs. 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,” said Mrs. Whitney, known to many as the “Queen of Saratoga.” “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.”

Marylou Whitney has celebrated a life of both racing and philanthropic achievement at the highest levels. During the 20th Century, the Whitney family, under the direction of her second husband, C.V Whitney, ran one of the most successful racing stables, owning more stakes winners than any other family in the history of U.S. racing. But during the 1980’s, C.V. Whitney dispersed his breeding stock.

After Mr. Whitney’s death in 1992, Mrs. Whitney began a program to rebuild her racing and breeding business by locating and buying back “Whitney Mares.” Mrs. Whitney found and bought Dear Birdie who proved to be the foundation for Marylou Whitney Stables.  Dear Birdie was named Broodmare of the Year in 2004. She is the dam of Birdstone and champion filly Bird Town, who won the 2003 Kentucky Oaks. Marylou Whitney Stables bred, raced and stands Birdstone, the 2004 Belmont Stakes and Travers Stakes winner. Birdstone, in turn, produced two classic winners in his first crop, 2009 Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird, and Belmont Stakes winner and eventual 3-year-old champion, Summer Bird. No stallion has sired two classic winners in his first crop since the late 1800s.

Mrs. 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 devoted to racing and worthy causes. In recent years, one of the most prominent has been a backstretch workers program, organized and underwritten by Mrs. Whitney and Mr. Hendrickson. Each week for the past three years during the Saratoga racing meeting, Mrs. Whitney and Mr. Hendrickson, have hosted weekly dinners and festivities for backstretch workers, the “unsung heroes” of the race track. The couple has also been successful in garnering interest for the Saratoga Backstretch Appreciation program from other organizations, such as BEST (Backstretch Employee Service Team) and the Racetrack Chaplaincy to join the cause. “We had to do more for the workers in the backstretch,” Mrs. Whitney told The New York Times last summer. “They’ve needed a sense of belonging. And dignity.”

Mrs. Whitney has given back to the Thoroughbred industry in a variety of ways. She was one of the founding members of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation (TRF) and was the major contributor to the Secretariat Center at the Kentucky Horse Park, where the Marylou Whitney Barn is stationed. She has stood at the forefront in finding 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.

Mrs. Whitney has been instrumental in donating and raising much needed funds for worthwhile medical institutions. Over $44 million was raised for the building and establishment of the University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center in Lexington. As one of the founders, Mrs. Whitney has been a prime fundraiser and has made many television appearances on its behalf. Mrs. Whitney and Mr. Hendrickson, donated $2.5 million for the Marylou Whitney and John Hendrickson Cancer Facility for Women at the Markey Cancer Center. The Marylou Whitney and John Hendrickson Cancer Facility for Women opened in 2002. It provides multidisciplinary ambulatory care for women suffering from breast cancer, gynecologic cancers, and lung, hematologic, gastrointestinal and urologic cancers.

The Eclipse Awards are bestowed upon horses and individuals whose outstanding achievements in North America have earned them the title of Champion in their respective categories. The Eclipse Awards are named after the great 18th-century racehorse and foundation sire Eclipse, who began racing at age five and was undefeated in 18 starts, including eight walkovers. Eclipse sired the winners of 344 races, including three Epsom Derbies.

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