“Tomorrow, I plan to wake up inspired to do more for the horses…”
Those were not empty words that racing's grande dame, Marylou Whitney, spoke when accepting an Award of Merit at horse racing's recent Eclipse Awards dinner in Miami Beach, Fla.,
Two weeks later and more than 2,000 miles away in Tucson, Ariz., Whitney's words were still resonating with Patti Shirley, the founder of the racehorse retirement home Equine Encore Foundation, when she got a phone call from a friend, bloodstock agent Joyce Long, to tell her about a filly that needed a good home. The filly, named Bootless, had just won a low-level claiming race at Turf Paradise in Phoenix, Ariz., but pulled up with a fractured sesamoid that would end her career.
“Joyce is instrumental in trying to save racehorses that need to leave the track,” Shirley told the Paulick Report. “In addition, she helps me a lot because she knows all of the trainers at Turf and is welcome in their shedrows.”
Bootless had taken a path that wasn't that unusual in racing, starting out in the glamour of a maiden special weight race at Belmont Park as a 2-year-old filly, then into the ranks of maiden claiming contests, and claiming races that are the bread and butter of so many racing programs across the country. She traveled from New York to Louisiana to Arkansas to Iowa to Canada and finally wound up in Arizona in the barn of trainer Robertino Diodoro. Had Diodoro not contacted Long to tell her about the filly, this story might have one of those unhappy endings. But he did.
When Long ran the pedigree on Bootless, she discovered that the breeder and original owner was Marylou Whitney. Shirley got in touch with a friend, Staci Hancock at Stone Farm in Paris, Ky., to see if she had contact information for Whitney.
Before she knew it, Kim Nelson, from Whitney's farm office, contacted her about Bootless. “My faith was bolstered when Kim assured me that they would take care of the filly,” Shirley said. “We are currently waiting for information from Dr. Day at Turf Paradise as to when the filly can safely ship to Kentucky.”
This was not the first time Whitney and her husband, John Hendrickson, took one of her homebreds back when it ended up in someone else's hands and was no longer fit to race. A couple of years ago, Daily Racing Form columnist Jay Hovdey told the story of a gelded son of Storm Cat, Storm Legacy, that Penn National trainer Pete Tardy wound up with after the owner said he no longer wanted him. When the horse could no longer race, Tardy checked the Jockey Club foal papers and found something he'd never seen before – a note that read: “If for some reason you are unable to care for this horse please contact us.” With that note was the telephone number of Marylou Whitney's farm office in Kentucky. Tardy made the call, and Storm Legacy returned home, just like Bootless will soon be doing.
“Mrs. Whitney and her staff deserve all of the credit in the world for stepping up to the plate and doing exactly what she encourages others to do,” Patti Shirley said. “I have been operating Equine Encore Foundation for six years and every time I accept another horse (I have 63 and more waiting in the wings), I contact the breeder, and Mrs. Whitney is the first to ever respond. This shows so much class and makes her a winner in my book.”
Not everyone in this game has the money to do with Marylou Whitney does, not just for the horses, but for the people on the backstretch who help put on the show, often working long hours for low wages. She is their friend, too.
With that in mind, for those who didn't get a chance to hear or read what Marylou Whitney said upon accepting the Award of Merit last month, here it is, one last time:
Good evening. I am deeply honored and humbled to receive this Award tonight.
I have loved the sport of thoroughbred racing since Sonny Whitney introduced me to it in 1958. I am grateful to carry on—in a small way—the traditions of the Whitney Family who have been in this business since 1894.
Horses–and the people involved in racing–have always given me more than I could ever give them. Horse racing is where I feel the most alive…AND at home. You are my family!
Being part of this horse racing family is a pleasure and a privilege…but it also requires responsibility.
Many first-time owners get frustrated if they do not achieve instant success. However, over the years, we have all learned success—as an owner—means our horses have finished a race unhurt.
All owners need to be accountable for their horses–from the beginning of their lives to the end! We are their advocates. Together, we must fight to ensure there will never be another horse slaughtered in America!
Another obligation we must share is to our backstretch workers. They are the sport's unsung heroes. These wonderful people work long hours in dangerous situations…while often living in poor conditions. All of us should do more to improve their lives and advance their dignity.
We should also remember that racing is not just about the betting. The beauty, pageantry, and flair is what separates our sport from any other. Every race meet must be an extraordinary event—the only place to be.
As we look to the future, we must also pass on our passion and excitement for this glorious sport to the next generation. It is our obligation.
A candle loses nothing by lighting another.
Thank you for honoring me tonight with the most prestigious Award in racing. There are so many others that deserve this distinction before me. However, I want you to know, you have given me one of the greatest moments in my life, and I am forever grateful.
Tomorrow, I plan to wake up inspired to do more for the horses…
and YOU……the people I love.
May God bless you and this marvelous sport!
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Thanks to the generosity of Three Chimneys Farm, the sponsor of Good News Friday, a donation of $100 will be to support the Equine Encore Foundation. Three Chimneys will be donating that amount each and every week we bring you a story of people or organizations making a positive difference in our world.
Another $100 is being donated to these organizations each week by a Paulick Report reader who wishes to remain anonymous but who encourages all of our readers to open their hearts and pocketbooks for this good cause.
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