07/18/2013 4:45PM

John P. Sparkman: Cynthia Phipps’s legacy stays alive

Michael Amoruso
Boisterous, ridden by John Velazquez, won the Man o’ War Stakes at Belmont Park on July 13, becoming the 14th Grade 1 or Group 1 winner sired by Distorted Humor.

The late Cynthia Phipps maintained a much smaller broodmare band than her brother, Ogden Mills “Dinny” Phipps, but she left a mark in breeding nonetheless. The most recent evidence came on July 13 when Boisterous, a horse she bred out of a family she helped develop, won the Man o’ War Stakes, his first Grade 1 victory.

Phipps acquired the Calumet-bred Yule Log, a half-sister to Sweet Tooth, the future dam of Alydar, through her family’s foal-sharing program to Bold Ruler that also resulted in Meadow Stable breeding Secretariat.

She bred 1982 champion 3-year-old filly Christmas Past, by Grey Dawn II, but that champion did not breed on, and her line died out in the Phipps Stable.

Phipps acquired her most successful broodmare, Ten Cents a Dance, more conventionally, purchasing the filly by her father’s great racehorse and sire Buckpasser for $170,000, the co-highest price for a filly at the 1974 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale of selected yearlings, from Mr. and Mrs. Richard Stokes (the future Diana Firestone).

A half-sister to Travers winner General Assembly, by Secretariat, and Comely winner Expressive Dance, by Riva Ridge, from the great family of Exclusive, Ten Cents a Dance placed in the Grade 2 Firenze Handicap and the Grade 3 Jersey Belle Handicap and founded the family that produced recent Grade 1 Man o’ War Stakes winner Boisterous, by Distorted Humor, for Phipps Stable.

Ten Cents a Dance authored an illustrious career as a broodmare for Cynthia Phipps. Her third foal, On Retainer, by Damascus, was a useful, consistent, and sound racehorse, winning 11 of 60 starts and earning $205,729, including a win in the 1989 Tallahassee Handicap at Hialeah Park. Phipps enjoyed a very good Hialeah meeting that year because On Retainer’s half-sister For Kicks, by Topsider, captured the Grade 3 Columbiana Handicap at the same meeting.

Ten Cents a Dance’s fifth foal, Wikki Up, by Tom Rolfe, placed in the 1990 Display and Annapolis handicaps, but her sixth foal, Versailles Treaty, by Danzig, was easily her best. The winner of her only start at 2, Versailles Treaty came within a few lengths of two championships in the next two years, winning the Grade 1 Alabama, Test, and Gazelle at 3 and the Grade 1 Ruffian at 4.

Versailles Treaty, however, finished second by 1 1/2 lengths to divisional champion Dance Smartly in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Distaff at 3 and second by four lengths to divisional champion Paseana in that event at 4.

Versailles Treaty produced the talented Unbridled colt Saarland, the winner of the Grade 2 Remsen and second in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap for Cynthia Phipps but was sold for $475,000 at the 2008 Keeneland January sale to Gaines-Gentry Thoroughbreds after Phipps’s death in 2007. Later sold privately to the Coolmore partnership, Versailles Treaty produced 2012 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner George Vancouver, by Henrythenavigator.

Despite Versailles Treaty’s accomplishments, it was Ten Cents a Dance’s first foal, Arabian Dancer, by Damascus, who proved most important for the Phipps family fortunes. A winner of two of her three starts at 2 and second in the Grade 1 Matron in her only other start, Arabian Dancer obviously was very talented but unsound.

She produced 10 foals for Phipps, including the classy, handsome, but rather one-paced Out of Place, by Cox’s Ridge, who won eight races, including the Grade 3 Clark Handicap, and earned $733,450, but always found one with too much pace for him on the big occasion, finishing second in the Grade 1 Philip H. Iselin, Donn, and Whitney handicaps. Out of Place also was a useful sire, getting 43 stakes winners among his progeny, including 11 graded winners.

Out of Place’s half-sister Lead Kindly Light, by Majestic Light, was a good turf filly, winning the Grade 3 Athenia Handicap in 1987, and produced Grade 1 NYRA Mile Handicap winner Gold Fever, by Forty Niner. Gold Fever has been an inconsistent sire, but his 12 stakes winners include Canadian Horse of the Year A Bit O’Gold and top sprinting filly Gold Mover.

Gold Mover’s half-sister Emanating, by Cox’s Ridge, was more precocious, winning the Polly Drummond at 2, but she finished second in the Grade 3 All Along and third in the Grade 1 Test. Boisterous is her best foal to date. The Man o’ War was his first Grade 1 triumph, but he has been promising to win one for the past two years, with victories in the Grade 2 Monmouth Stakes and two editions of the Grade 2 Red Smith Handicap.

Arabian Dancer’s multiple Grade 1-placed daughter Frolic, by Cox’s Ridge, is the dam of Cynthia Phipps’s final graded stakes winner as an owner, 2004 Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap winner Jackpot, by Seeking the Gold.

Since Boisterous is by Forty Niner’s son Distorted Humor, he is closely related to Gold Fever, and he, too, is likely to get a decent opportunity somewhere at stud, especially if he can win more Grade 1 races.

Bred by the late Charles Nuckols and sons and raced by the late Russell L. Reineman, out of the Danzig mare Danzig’s Beauty, Distorted Humor himself failed to achieve that honor, though he appeared to possess the talent to do so. Distorted Humor won eight of 23 starts over three seasons, including the Grade 2 Commonwealth Breeders’ Cup Stakes and Churchill Downs Handicap and the Grade 3 Ack Ack and Salvator Mile handicaps, all at distances of seven furlongs to a mile.

That lack of a Grade 1 victory meant that Distorted Humor did not attract the best mares when he retired to the new WinStar Farm in 1999, but he quickly proved it did not matter. His first crop included 2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner and champion 3-year-old male Funny Cide (out of Belle’s Good Cide, by Slewacide), and Distorted Humor was soon on his way to a perennial place among North America’s leading sires, leading the list by North American earnings in 2011.

Boisterous is the 14th Grade 1 or Group 1 winner among Distorted Humor’s 116 stakes winners from 1,093 foals ages 3 and up (10.6 percent), including 2005 Travers winner Flower Alley (Princess Olivia, by Lycius), who already has sired his own Derby and Preakness winner in I’ll Have Another, establishing Distorted Humor as a promising young sire of sires.

Distorted Humor also has Irish highweight Pathfork (Visions of Clarity, by Sadler’s Wells) and Belmont Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Drosselmeyer (Golden Ballet, by Moscow Ballet) at stud, among his other Grade 1-winning sons.

Wherever and whenever Boisterous retires to stud, he will take with him a better pedigree than most other sons of his sire currently at stud. Inbred 4x5 to Raise a Native and 5x5 to Ribot, his female family, descending from his sixth dam, foundation mare Exclusive, by Shut Out, includes the great sire Exclusive Native and such useful sires as General Assembly and American Chance.

With his talented stable companion Point of Entry, by Dynaformer, sidelined by injury, Boisterous is likely to deputize in more Grade 1 races this year. His nearly $1.3 million in earnings and his stellar record are a fitting memorial to the memory of Cynthia Phipps’s contributions to the breed.