03/05/2018 1:36PM

Fly So High's purchase paying off for Phipps family

Adam Coglianese/Coglianese Photos
Fly So High wins Saturday's Grade 2 Davona Dale Stakes, her third win in a row.

When the historic Phipps family racing operation made a rare buying appearance at the 2016 Keeneland September yearling sale as part of a plan to diversify its stock, one of its carefully selected purchases was a filly from one of the most active family trees in racing today, with roots in another vaunted program.

Fly So High, whose dam was bred by the late Edward P. Evans, has paid off handsomely. She has now won three consecutive races by a combined 16 1/4 lengths, including her stakes debut in the Grade 2 Davona Dale Stakes on Saturday at Gulfstream Park. The Davona Dale win earned her 50 points toward a berth in the Kentucky Oaks.

Fly So High, who is from the immediate family of 2017 Horse of the Year Gun Runner, gave her connections a scare when she was pulled up post-race by jockey Jose Ortiz, who thought he felt something off. She walked onto a waiting horse ambulance, but trainer Shug McGaughey told Daily Racing Form on Sunday that nothing major seemed amiss.

“Jose said when he turned around [to jog back] he felt something a little funny,” McGaughey said Saturday. “As far as anything major, she didn’t palpate sore. Maybe she did something to her foot or jammed something. But when I got over there it wasn’t like her leg filled up or anything like that.”

Fly So High is a daughter of Malibu Moon, whose son Orb won the 2013 Kentucky Derby as a homebred for the Phipps and Janney families. Fly So High, a $675,000 selection out of the Lane’s End consignment, led a pair purchased by the Phippses via agent Niall Brennan at Keeneland September. The other, a $430,000 Tapit filly named Tactical Affair, is winless in one start.

Daisy Phipps Pulito, co-owner and racing manager of Phipps Stable and daughter of the late Ogden Mills Phipps, said the stable was looking for fillies that fit the Phipps Stable program as it made its first significant auction purchases since the early 1990s. The plan to diversify the stable’s holdings also involved selling a handful of mares in recent years.

“My father and I for the last couple of years had been discussing that we needed to bring in a little bit of new blood to Phipps Stable and how we were going to do that,” Phipps Pulito said. “When he got sick, we just sort of decided to keep things the same for a while. After he passed away, my brother, my mom, and my sisters and I decided we were going to do that.”

Fly So High was bred by Mt. Brilliant, which purchased her dam, the placed Quiet American mare Quiet Flight, for $600,000 out of the Spring Hill Farm dispersal at the 2011 Keeneland November breeding stock sale following Evans’s death. The mare is a full sister to stakes winner Quiet Dance, whose four stakes winners were led by 2005 Horse of the Year Saint Liam. Quiet Dance also produced Grade 2 winner Quiet Giant, dam of Gun Runner.

Fly So High rallied to be third in her debut going six furlongs at Belmont last October, and has now put together three consecutive wins at a mile. Running on the lead, she won a maiden race at Aqueduct by 7 3/4 lengths, then showed a different dimension when sitting off the pace to win an optional-claiming event at Gulfstream by 5 1/2 lengths. In the Davona Dale, the filly again showed stalking tactics, sitting in third before taking command and rolling clear to win by three.

While Fly So High has clearly relished added distance, McGaughey believes that in the fashion of her late-blooming family she will continue to develop toward the Kentucky Oaks and beyond.

“Once she gets filled out and starts learning where her legs are supposed to go, hopefully by the middle of summer I think is when she’ll probably really peak,” he said. “She’s good right now, but I’m just looking at her and thinking, ‘Boy when she kind of catches up to everything, it’ll be a lot of fun.’ We’re looking forward to it.”