Phipps Forever

If you’re looking for Cinderella stories or fairy tales in general, you’re not going to find them in Shug McGaughey’s barn. If you want to get all choked up reading some rags-to-riches feel-good story, you don’t go out and get “War and Peace.”

But in a world where tradition and sportsmanship are eroding with each passing year, McGaughey and the Phipps family are the last remaining pillars of strength, serving as a reminder of a time long ago when Thoroughbred racing was indeed the Sport of Kings. As long as those familiar black silks and cherry red cap adorn some of the finest bred horses in the world, those pillars will never crumble.

That is more important than one might think, because if they did crumble, the world of racing as we knew it will crumble with it.

The tradition of racing can be viewed in the National Museum of Racing through a kaleidoscope of colors in the form of silks once as familiar to racing fans as the colors of the rainbow – the Woodward’s white with red polka dots, the devil’s red of Calumet Farm, the cerise and white diamonds of Alfred Vanderbilt, the dark and light blue horizontal stripes of George D. Widener, the pink and black stripes on sleeves of John Hay Whitney’s Greentree Stud, and the fawn and brown of John Galbreath’s Darby Dan Farm. They are all gone.

There are the Eton blue and brown colors of C.V. Whitney that have been preserved by Whitney’s wife Marylou, but they only encompass a handful of horses these days. The only major private stable remaining in the tradition of racing’s once-powerful titans of the turf is the Phipps family.

Although Ogden Phipps and his mother, Mrs. Henry Carnegie Phipps, who ran Wheatley Stable, are long gone, Ogden’s son, Ogden Mills, better known as Dinny, along with his sons and daughters, have kept the Phipps stable running and prosperous.

In an era where trainers are tossed aside like yesterday’s newspapers, there are no owners who have remained as loyal to their trainers as the Phipps family. McGaughey, for example, has been training for them for 26 years, through the up and down years. Unlike most owners today, the Phippses take defeat with the same class they do victory. They still believe in patience when it comes to their horses and never interfering with the trainer’s decision regarding when or where to run.

The names of the Phipps horses resound through the corridors of time, from Buckpasser to Easy Goer to Personal Ensign to Inside Information, and now Point of Entry, with countless champions in between. Ogden’s mother campaigned the great racehorse and stallion Bold Ruler. When Ogden died in 2002 at age 93, Marylou Whitney called his passing “the end of an era in racing.”

But thankfully, that era continues, providing a new generation with one final glimpse of racing the way it was and meant to be, and the foundation that was built by sportsmen like Ogden Phipps.

It is appropriate that the first barn you come to after entering the Belmont Park stable gate is the Phipps barn. And if you want to enter a horse lover’s paradise, just spend some time at the Phipps barn at Saratoga’s Oklahoma training track. From an aesthetic and historical standpoint, it truly is a world unto itself, and it is on this small acreage of hallowed ground that time has remained unchanged.

The point we’re trying to make here is that, whether or not you are a fan of McGaughey or the Phipps family, it is difficult not to root for their latest star, Point of Entry, who is getting so good right now he is beginning to evoke images of the great Manila, one of the rare grass horses who demonstrated brilliance, stamina, speed, class, and an electrifying turn of foot. Manila transcended grass racing and was just an exciting horse to watch, regardless of the surface. Point of Entry looks to have all those qualities, and as we wrote several weeks ago following his Man o’War Stakes victory, he is a horse even the top stars in Europe should fear when they come here for their annual Breeders’ Cup Turf party, where the pickins have been easy.

To repeat, Point of Entry has as potent and classy a female family as you’ll ever see.

The son of the top-class stallion Dynaformer is a half-brother to the ill-fated Pine Island, winner of the Alabama and Gazelle Stakes.

His dam, Matlacha Pass, is a full-sister to Pleasant Home, who romped by nine lengths in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff.

His second dam, Our Country Place, is a half-sister to Triple Tiara winner and Hall of Famer Sky Beauty and also to Silence Beauty, dam of Wood Memorial and Cigar Mile winner Take of Ekati.

Third dam, Maplejinsky, like Sky Beauty and Pine Island, won the Alabama Stakes, as well as the Monmouth Oaks, and is a half-sister to the great sprinter Dayjur.

Fourth dam, Gold Beauty, was the champion sprinter in 1982, having won or placed in the Test, Vosburgh, Fall Highweight, True North, and Boojum.

The recently deceased Dynaformer is one of the most influential stallions of the past decade and a major source of class and stamina. Point of Entry also is inbred 3x4 to His Majesty through Dynaformer’s dam, Andover Way, and the classic-winning Pleasant Colony (sire of Our Country Place). Point of Entry’s broodmare sire is the classic stallion and Phipps homebred Seeking the Gold, while third dam Maplejinsky is by English Triple Crown winner Nijinsky.

This family also traces to Round Table, Hail to Reason, Stymie, and Bull Lea.

So, when the cream of Europe arrive on our shores in November, preparing to once again feast on “inferior” American grass horses, they might just run into something they’re not accustomed to – a horse who not only can match them at their own game, but who represents the finest in American class and tradition and who is more than capable of, to put it bluntly, kicking their butts.

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