SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - For what seems like forever, the Phipps and Whitney clans have been American racing royalty. On Friday at Saratoga Race Course, Ogden Mills "Dinny" Phipps and Marylou Whitney were honored for lifetime achievements that can never be equaled.
The New York Racing Association saluted Phipps and Whitney by presenting each with a Saratoga Red Jacket. They joined jockeys Angel Cordero Jr., Jerry Bailey and John Velazquez, trainers D. Wayne Lukas and Allen Jerkens and race caller Tom Durkin in the exclusive club.
Besides campaigning more than 35 stakes winners, among them 2013 Kentucky Derby winner Orb, Phipps, 74, has been a major mover and shaker. He was chairman of the New York Racing Association's board of trustees from 1976 to 1983 and chairman of the Jockey Club from 1983 to 2015. He represents the fifth generation of Phippses in racing, and his father, Ogden Phipps, and paternal grandmother, Mrs. Henry Carnegie Phipps, were major figures.
"I've been around Saratoga a long, long time," Phipps said. "I think my first visit was during World War II. I remember so many great horses, great jockeys like Ted Atkinson, Laffit Pincay Jr., Angel Cordero and Jerry Bailey, and great announcers Fred Capossela, Dave Johnson, Tom Durkin and Larry Collmus."
Whitney, 89, the longtime "Queen of Saratoga," has been far more than its leading socialite. Born on Christmas Eve in 1925, she has been a gift to the Spa for the past 57 years. Along with her third husband, John Hendrickson, she has embodied noblesse oblige with numerous philanthropic contributions, including the Backstretch Appreciation Program for backstretch workers, whom she called "the unsung heroes of our sport."
She helped revive Saratoga Springs' image by founding the Saratoga Performing Arts Center and the National Museum of Dance. In 1979, she began to host the Saratoga Gala, which has become a local institution. After her second husband, C.V. "Sonny" Whitney, died in 1992, she kept alive the Whitney family's racing and breeding legacy by buying broodmares and racehorses. She bred and owned Bird Town, the 2003 Eclipse Award champion 3-year-old filly, and Birdstone, winner of the 2004 Belmont Stakes and Travers Stakes.
After Birdstone passed Smarty Jones in the final 70 yards of the Belmont to derail his Triple Crown bid, a tearful Whitney apologized, saying, "We love Smarty."
Her most unique accomplishment came at age 69, when she was part of a three-week expedition in Antarctica that reached the South Pole. She was given an American flag there, and four months later she planted it at the North Pole. NYRA president and CEO Christopher Kay said it was a safe bet that no woman ever did that and also won the Belmont and the Travers.
"I guess at my age, people start giving you awards," Whitney said. "Since I moved here in 1958, this town has inspired me to be a better person."
Trainer Bob Baffert on Triple Crown winner American Pharoah: "I feel like a Secret Service guy protecting the president of the United States. I have to take care of him.
Pharoah's frequent flier
Baffert's assistant trainer, Jimmy Barnes, has accompanied American Pharoah on 13 flights this year, in which the California-based colt has raced in Arkansas, Kentucky, Maryland, New York and New Jersey.
"All the travel hasn't been an issue at all," Barnes said. "You just have to enjoy it. He's only going to be around for so long, and when he's gone, we're going to miss him."
American Pharoah will not race next year, when he will begin his stallion career at Ashford Stud in Versailles, Kentucky.