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Obituaries

Ogden Phipps, 93; Raced Nine Champions

April 23, 2002|BILL CHRISTINE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Ogden Phipps, who raced nine champions during a 70-year career as a breeder and owner of major thoroughbreds, died Monday at Good Samaritan Medical Center in West Palm Beach, Fla. He was 93 and died after a short illness.

Phipps never won the Kentucky Derby, but his understated yet well-known jockey colors--black silks, with a cherry cap--had been seen in winner's circles after hundreds of stakes races throughout the country. Three of his horses--Buckpasser, Personal Ensign and Easy Goer--are in the Racing Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Buckpasser was voted horse of the year in 1966; Personal Ensign finished her career in 1988 with an undefeated record of 13 victories; and in 1989, Easy Goer won the Belmont Stakes, which thrilled Phipps more than any of his other victories.

Phipps' other champions were Impressive, Vitriolic, Queen of the State, Numbered Account, Relaxing and Heavenly Prize. Many of the Phipps runners' bloodlines could be traced to Bold Ruler, who was bred by his mother. Bold Ruler was horse of the year in 1957 and, perhaps, the preeminent stallion of the last century.

Two of Phipps' children have built leading stables, and Cynthia Phipps, his only daughter, is planning to run Saarland, a descendant of Buckpasser, in the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 4.

FOR THE RECORD
Los Angeles Times Wednesday April 24, 2002 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 A2 Desk 1 inches; 26 words Type of Material: Correction
Phipps obituary--The obituary of horse owner and breeder Ogden Phipps in Tuesday's California section identified Henry Phipps as his father. In fact he was Ogden Phipps' grandfather.

"He talked about it [last] Wednesday," said Dinny Phipps, one of two sons. "He wished [Cynthia] well in the Derby. He had been keeping up and he was excited for his daughter to have a shot."

Ogden Phipps' horses finished second twice in the Derby, Dapper Dan losing by a neck to Lucky Debonair in 1965 and Easy Goer, a heavy favorite, finishing 21/2 lengths behind Sunday Silence in 1989. Five weeks after Easy Goer's defeat, the Phipps colt beat Sunday Silence in the Belmont Stakes, preventing the California horse from sweeping the Triple Crown--the Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont.

"That was my most exciting moment," Phipps said. "I had waited a long time to win the Belmont."

Phipps might have raced Secretariat, who swept the Triple Crown in 1973, but a coin flip went the wrong way. Phipps won it. In 1968, the Meadow Stable sent its good broodmare, Somethingroyal, to be bred to Bold Ruler, with the understanding that Meadow and Phipps would split the foals from the first two breedings.

A coin toss between Phipps and Penny Chenery, daughter of the owner of Meadow Stable, determined which stable would get the first foal. Phipps won that toss and took the Bride, a filly that turned out to be neither particularly fast nor much of a broodmare. The next year, the Chenerys got the Bold Ruler-Somethingroyal colt, which they named Secretariat.

Phipps was born Nov. 26, 1908, in New York City. His grandfather, Henry Phipps, was a partner with Andrew Carnegie in Carnegie Steel, a company that was later sold to J.P. Morgan and became U.S. Steel. His mother raced her horses under the Wheatley Stable banner. Ogden Phipps studied at Harvard and was a Navy commander during World War II. He was a seven-time U.S. court tennis champion and won the British amateur in 1949.

Following his mother's lead, Phipps raced his first horse in 1932 and three years later won his first stakes race. Buckpasser came along in 1965, was voted the best of his generation for three straight years and was retired in 1967 with 25 victories in 31 starts and earnings of $1.4 million.

Phipps won three Breeders' Cup races--the Distaff with Personal Ensign in 1988, the Sprint with Dancing Spree in 1989 and the Juvenile Fillies with My Flag, a daughter of Easy Goer and Personal Ensign, in 1995. Phipps won Eclipse Awards as best owner in 1988 and '89 and as best breeder in 1989. In 1988, his stable earned $5.8 million.

"He especially loved the breeding side of the business," Dinny Phipps said. "He went every 10 days this winter to see his new crop of 2-year-olds. The older he got, the more he got excited by the breeding side."

"He was an icon in this sport," said Shug McGaughey, the Phipps family trainer for the past 16 years. "There are not many people like him who are left in our world."

Phipps was a trustee emeritus of the New York Racing Assn., which operates the Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga tracks in New York.

"Racing has lost a truly great man of the 20th century," said Barry Schwartz, chairman of the NYRA. "When one speaks of 'improving the breed,' no one epitomized that more than Mr. Phipps."

Survivors include a son, Robert L.; a sister; and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

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