Mary Lou Whitney's acceptance speech upon receiving the 2010 Eclipse Award of Merit, Jan. 17, 2011, Fontainebleau Miami Beach Hotel:
I am deeply honored and humbled to receive this prestigious award. I have loved the sport of Thoroughbred racing ever since Sonny Whitney introduced me to it in 1958. I am grateful for the honor—in a small way—to carry on the traditions of the Whitney family who have been in this business since 1894. Horses and 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 the horse racing family is a pleasure and a privilege but also it means responsibility. Many first-time owners get very frustrated that they don’t achieve instant success. However, over the years, we have all learned success as an owner means our horses have finished a race unhurt. As owners, you have to be accountable to the horses—all horses—from the beginning of their lives to the end. We are advocates together. One must fight to ensure that there will be another never, ever 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 try more to improve their lives and advance their dignity.
We also need to know that racing is not just about betting. The beauty, the pageantry and flair is what separates our sport from any out there. Every race meet must be an extraordinary event. The only place to be. As we look to the future we must also pass on the passion and the excitement of this wondrous sport to the next generation is our obligation. A candle loses nothing by lighting another.
Thank you for honoring me tonight with this most prestigious award in our industry. There are so many others who deserve this before me, however, I want you to know that you have given me one of the greatest moments of my life, and I am forever grateful. Tomorrow I am going to wake up inspired to do more for the horses and for you, the people I love. May God bless you and this wonderful sport.
Video of Mary Lou Whitney's acceptance speech: