04/10/2016 3:06PM

Carrumba provides Phipps family with emotional victory in Top Flight

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Five days after Ogden Mills "Dinny" Phipps, her breeder and owner, died, the filly Carrumba wins the Top Flight Invitational.

Carrumba made a successful - and for her connections an emotional - return to the races Sunday at Aqueduct, edging away from Mei Ling in deep stretch to win the Grade 3, $200,000 Top Flight Invitational Handicap by a hard-fought half-length.

The victory comes just five days after Ogden Mills “Dinny” Phipps, the owner and breeder of Carrumba, died. Phipps’s son, Ogden II, walked Carrumba into the winner’s circle following the victory.

“Absolutely, this win was emotional,” the younger Phipps said. “Our first time back at the races and it’s obviously a big part of how we grew up with my dad. Coming back here and seeing a filly that he really loved and winning a stake is very emotional. Every time one of our horses runs in his colors I think it’s going to be emotional for us.”

This was the fifth win for the Phipps family in the Top Flight. The first came in 1951 with Busanda for Ogden Phipps, Dinny’s father and Ogden’s grandfather. Dinny Phipps won this race in 1994 with Educated Risk, in 2001 with Cat Cay, and in 2004 with Daydreaming.

Carrumba is by Bernardini but her female family is full of Grade 1 winners campaigned by the Phipps family, including Heavenly Prize, the champion 3-year-old filly of 1994.

Trainer Shug McGaughey feels Carrumba could elevate into the upper echelon of the older filly and mare division and Sunday’s Top Flight was a good first step.

In her first start since last Nov. 28, Carrumba stalked the pacesetting Mei Ling through a half-mile in 49.17 seconds and six furlongs in 1:12.86. Carrumba poked a nose in front of Mei Ling at the three-eighths pole, but Mei Ling still had some fight in her.

Through the stretch, Carrumba began to drift out under Ortiz’s left-handed whip, but Jose Ortiz got her straightened out enough to get past Mei Ling for the victory.

“I was very confident down the backside but I was a little surprised that Mei Ling fought me as hard as she did in the homestretch,” Ortiz said. “But I rode her last time and she’s a fighter too. I knew she was going to fight a little bit because I knew we went easy early.”

Mei Ling finished second by 15 3/4 lengths over America. Noble and a Beauty was last. Saythreehailmary’s scratched.

Carrumba covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.26 and returned $3.30 as the favorite.

Speaking of Dinny Phipps, Ortiz said, “It’s very sad to lose one person like that from the industry. My condolences to the Phipps family and this one is for him.”

Robbie Medina, who saddled Carrumba, said the filly would likely be pointed to the Grade 2 Ruffian at Belmont on May 14 and then, fittingly, the Grade 1 Phipps Stakes on June 11.