The Lilly Pulitzer Saratoga Connection

Lilly Pulitzer, dress designer and Queen of Prep extraordinaire, used to spend her summers right here in Saratoga Springs. Born Lillian Lee "Lilly" McKim to socialites Robert V. McKim and his wife, Lillian (née Bostwick) in Roslyn, New York in 1931, her mother, Lillian Bostwick McKim was an heiress to the Standard Oil fortune. When Robert and Lillian McKim divorced, Lillian remarried, to Ogden Phipps, in 1937.

If the name Ogden Phipps doesn't already ring a horsey bell in your head, allow us to clue you in. After World War II, Ogden Phipps bought a group of horses that would form the basis for what would become his major horse racing operation. In 1959 he became a founding member of the New York Racing Association and a member of its board of trustees. Approaching his 80th birthday, he resigned in 1988 and was named a director emeritus. He also served as a Chairman of the The Jockey Club for twenty years and at the time of his death was the Club's longest reigning member.

Ogden Phipps owned and bred Reviewer who sired Ruffian for his sister, Barbara Phipps Janney. He inherited the stallion Bold Ruler from his mother's estate who was mated with the mare Somethingroyal in 1969. Through the toss of a coin, Penny Chenery, on behalf of her father Christopher Chenery, got the red chestnut colt Secretariat, the 1973 Triple Crown Winner.

Ogden bred nine Champions of his own, winning Eclipse Awards for both leading owner and leading breeder in 1988. His most famous horses include Buckpasser, Personal Ensign, and Easy Goer, all of whom are in the United States Racing Hall of Fame. He never won the Kentucky Derby but came close twice, finishing 2nd with Dapper Dan in 1965 and 2nd again with Easy Goer in 1989 who went on to win the Belmont Stakes. In 2003, Ogden Phipps was voted the Eclipse Award of Merit, the American Thoroughbred horse racing industry's highest honor. Read more about the Phipps family racing in Saratoga Springs here and here.

Marylou Whitney, right, with Kay Leach and Mrs. Ogden Phipps at SPAC

Marylou Whitney, right, with Kay Leach and Mrs. Ogden Phipps at SPAC


Lillian Phipps herself was no slouch, she went on to become a major figure in American steeplechase racing who owned two U.S. Racing Hall of Fame horses and won the American Grand National eight times. A former chairman of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Lillian was a member of its board from its founding until her death in 1987. She also was a member of the board of the National Museum of Dance until her death, and was a prominent figure during the Saratoga summer season for decades.

Did the vibrancy of our beloved city rub off on Lilly Pulitzer and help inspire her beautiful creations later in life? We can only assume that yes of COURSE it did. So the next time you are walking down Broadway (home of our own local Lilly Pulitzer shop, the Pink Paddock) or cheering on the horses at the track wearing your Lilly, know that she herself also walked in those footsteps.



Posted on March 12, 2015 .