No active sporting venue in the country has a history that runs as deep as Saratoga Race Course. As the Spa City prepares to mark its 150th anniversary of horse racing, the community will celebrate 30 of the greatest thoroughbreds that ever left the starting gate. YNN's Matt Hunter reports.
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. -– "The town was absolutely dead,” Marylou Whitney recalled. “You could throw a baseball or football down the middle of Broadway and you'd hit no one."
Looking back on her first days in Saratoga in 1958 with her late husband, “Sonny” Whitney, Marylou Whitney remembers a city less inviting than it is today.
"Sonny turned around at me and he said 'Marylou this is the way. I remember the track, do something!' I said 'Sonny, with your money, I can do anything.'"
With Whitney and her family's wealth partially to thank, the Spa City and the sport that put it on the map are once again thriving. This summer, the community will celebrate that history as the 150th Anniversary of horse racing comes to pass.
"To see the renaissance of Saratoga, to see this track become the preeminent racetrack in the world and to watch the outpouring of people and the support for this 150th celebration has been truly remarkable," said Charles Wait, chairman of the Saratoga 150 committee.
On Tuesday at the National Museum of Horse Racing and Hall of Fame, the New York Racing Association and Saratoga 150 Committee announced a new initiative to celebrate the top horses to ever leave Saratoga's starting gate. Outside the Clubhouse entrance will be a "Hoofprints Walk of Fame," honoring 30 of the sport's icons.
"This is a tremendous idea and a great way to honor the track and its history as well as its future," said Rodnell Workman, NYRA’s VP and Chief Marketing Officer.
The inaugural class features 28 Hall of Famers and four Triple Crown winners, legendary names like Man o' War, Secretariat and Affirmed, all sure to excite racing fans.
Two horses on the list raced for Mrs. Whitney's late husband's famed stable, intertwining the track's great history and future, which will be on display all summer.
"I love Saratoga,” said Whitney, who along with her husband, John Hendrickson, is an honorary co-chair of Saratoga 150.
“I'll do anything I can for this wonderful town and for the racetrack forever and ever."
Construction on the Hoofprints Walk of Fame will begin this spring. The monument will be unveiled at this summer's open house outside the track’s Clubhouse entrance.
The entire inaugural class of the Hoofprints Walk of Fame includes:
- Chief's Crown
- Duke of Magenta
- Easy Goer
- Eight Thirty
- Emperor of Norfolk
- Go for Wand
- Harry Bassett
- Heavenly Prize
- Henry of Navarre
- Lady's Secret
- Man o' War
- Native Dancer
- Sky Beauty
- Tom Fool
- Top Flight
- War Admiral
For more information