Updated on 09/16/2011 7:13AM

Ogden Phipps, racing titan, dead

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Ogden Phipps built a breeding empire with broodmares dating back to the purchase of a filly in foal to War Admiral.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Ogden Phipps, patriarch of the family whose name is synonymous with royalty in American Thoroughbred breeding and racing, died early Monday morning. He was 93.

Phipps died at about 1:30 a.m. at Good Samaritan Medical Center near his residence in West Palm Beach, Fla., after a short illness, according to The Jockey Club.

Phipps bred and raced such Hall of Fame runners as Buckpasser, Easy Goer, and Personal Ensign. His stable's trainers included Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons, Bill Winfrey, Eddie Neloy, and Claude "Shug" McGaughey III.

Above all else in the sport, Phipps revered his fillies and broodmares, who are largely responsible for the Phipps family's dominance in Thoroughbred breeding today. "He had a real fondness for the fillies in his stable," said his son Ogden Mills "Dinny" Phipps, chairman of the Jockey Club, who spoke to reporters on Monday afternoon. "He knew that they were the lifeblood of his stable, and they held a warm place in his heart."

The Phipps broodmare band is a cask for some of racing's jewels: Personal Ensign, who last week foaled an Unbridled filly, is one of its stars, as are her daughter My Flag and champion Heavenly Prize.

Dinny Phipps said that of all the great fillies to emerge from his father's breeding program, his father's favorite was Personal Ensign. Renowned for her courage and toughness, Personal Ensign appeared hopelessly beaten on the turn of the

1988 Breeders' Cup Distaff, the final race of her career. But she ran down Winning Colors, the 1988 Kentucky Derby winner, by a nose to retire undefeated in 13 starts.

"She personified everything he believed in, and that was it," said Dinny Phipps.

Phipps was chairman of The Jockey Club from 1964 to 1974 and a trustee emeritus of the New York Racing Association at the time of his death.

A grandson of Andrew Carnegie's Carnegie Steel partner Henry Phipps, Ogden Phipps came into Thoroughbred racing on the heels of his mother, whose famously successful Wheatley Stable produced Bold Ruler among countless others. Phipps went on to campaign Buckpasser (1965,1966), plus champions Impressive (1966), Vitriolic (1967), Queen of the Stage (1967), Numbered Account (1971), Relaxing (1981), Personal Ensign (1988), Easy Goer (1988), and Heavenly Prize (1994).

Phipps won three Breeders' Cup races, the 1988 Distaff with Personal Ensign, the 1989 Sprint with Dancing Spree, and the 1995 Juvenile Fillies with My Flag. He was voted Eclipse Awards as North America's leading owner and breeder in 1988 and leading owner in 1989.

In addition to maintaining one of the most powerful breeding and racing operations, Phipps also was a leading authority in the sport and business of racing. Elected to The Jockey Club at the age of 30, Phipps became its director 26 years later and said that he had "no intention of ever losing sight of the main purpose of The Jockey Club, which is to preserve this sport as a sport."

"He loved it; it was that simple," Dinny Phipps said of his father's lifelong devotion to racing. "There wasn't one thing about racing he didn't like."

"Racing has lost one of the truly great men of the 20th century," said Barry Schwartz, chairman of NYRA.

Phipps, a Harvard graduate, served in the Navy as a Commander during World War II. He was a national champion in the little-known game of court tennis and was former chairman of his family's Bessemer Trust investment banking firm and a former partner in Smith Barney.

But his first love was racing.

Dinny Phipps said that his father was at Palm Beach Downs within three weeks of his death.

Ogden Phipps was born in New York City on Nov. 26, 1908. He came by his love of racing naturally. His mother, Mrs. Henry Carnegie Phipps, was an accomplished horsewoman and founded the family's racing interests with her Wheatley Stable.

Ogden Phipps earned his first stakes win in 1935, when his White Cockade, trained by Fitzsimmons, won several juvenile stakes.

In 1946, Phipps - as part of a group that also included King Ranch president Robert Kleberg and Greentree Stud's John Hay Whitney and his sister Mrs. Joan Payson Whitney - purchased bloodstock from the late Col. E. R. Bradley's Idle Hour. That move contributed bloodlines that still resonate in the Phipps family's homebred success today.

The mares Phipps obtained in the deal included Businesslike, a Blue Larkspur daughter of La Troienne, also in foal to War Admiral.

Businesslike's War Admiral foal turned out to be a filly eventually named Busanda. She later won the Alabama Stakes and Coaching Club American Oaks against her own sex and the Suburban Handicap against males. And as the dam of Buckpasser (Tom Fool), Busanda - like Mrs. Phipps's Bold Ruler a decade later - formed a cornerstone for Phipps dominance in the breeding world.

In the late 1940's, Phipps moved his mares to Arthur "Bull" Hancock's Claiborne Farm near Paris, Ky., where Phipps's mother kept her horses. Today, according to Dinny Phipps, the family still has about 25 mares at the fabled nursery; the family estimates that it has had, during its relationship with Claiborne dating back to the 1930's, between 250 and 300 stakes winners.

Not all of Ogden Phipps's great runners were fillies - witness Buckpasser - and the race he often mentioned as his favorite memory in the sport, Easy Goer's 1989 Belmont win, came to him courtesy of a champion colt. Phipps also campaigned Seeking the Gold, Grade 1 winner and sire of such champions as Heavenly Prize, Flanders, Dubai Millennium, Seeking the Pearl, and others.

Like Ogden Phipps's legacy of great Thoroughbred bloodlines, his famed silks - black with cherry cap - will continue to be carried by the family's Phipps Stable runners.

Phipps is survived by two sons, Robert L. Phipps and Dinny Phipps; a daughter, Cynthia; and a sister, Mrs. Hans C. Seherr-Thoss.

Funeral arrangements will be private. The family requests that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation.