Updated on 09/27/2016 2:07PM

Phipps Stable re-enters auction arena as buyers

Keeneland Photo
Phipps Stable paid $675,000 for this daughter of Malibu Moon.

Over the past few decades, finding a sales ticket at auction with “Phipps Stable” on the buyer line proved as fruitful as hunting the Loch Ness Monster. The vaunted program’s aversion to buying at public auction became such a cornerstone of its operation that it warranted mention in Ogden Mills “Dinny” Phipps’s New York Times obituary this year.

The Phipps breeding program has been carefully curated over the generations, earning myriad trophies, both human and equine, and sending an army of sons and daughters into the studbook.

There was little fanfare when Phipps Stable made its return to the buying bench during Book 1 of the Keeneland September yearling sale, landing a Malibu Moon filly for $675,000 and a Tapit filly for $430,000. In a three-day span where 82 yearlings sold for $500,000 or more, it was business as usual.

That was fine by Daisy Phipps Pulito, co-owner and racing manager of Phipps Stable and daughter of the elder Phipps. They weren’t coming to make a splash, they were looking for fillies who fit the program.

“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,” she 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.”

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Pulito said the yearling purchases were the first part of a plan to freshen up the Phipps Stable gene pool that also includes offering 11 broodmares at this year’s Keeneland November breeding stock sale and continuing to buy a select few fillies at future September sales. Though quiet on the buying front, the Phipps family has sold its stock at auction and privately on a fairly regular basis.

To Pulito’s memory, the family’s most recent significant purchase in an auction setting came in 1993, when her grandfather, Ogden Phipps, purchased Our Country Place privately after the filly was scratched prior to the now-defunct Keeneland July selected yearling sale. Though she was unraced, the daughter of Pleasant Colony went on to produce two graded stakes winners and three graded stakes-producing mares, becoming another key female line in the program.

Pulito said she was advised throughout the purchase process by longtime business partner Seth Hancock of Claiborne Farm and Niall Brennan, who breaks the Phippses’ horses at his Ocala, Fla., farm. Brennan signed the tickets as agent.

“The goal is to get runners, first and foremost, or else you could just go out and buy a broodmare,” Brennan said. “We’re trying to do it in a range where we could get some fillies at a reasonable price with pedigree, but the sale has been extremely strong, so we got outbid on several that we really liked. We’re very happy with the few we did get.”

The $675,000 Malibu Moon filly is the third foal out of the placed Quiet American mare Quiet Flight. The mare is a full sister to Quiet Dance, whose produce includes 2005 Horse of the Year Saint Liam and Grade 2 winner Quiet Giant, who is herself the dam of Grade 2 winner Gun Runner and a Tapit filly who sold for $1.4 million at this year’s Keeneland September sale.

Earlier in the sale, Phipps Stable landed a $430,000 Tapit filly out of the Grade 3-winning Wild Rush mare Fencelineneighbor. She is a full sister to stakes winner Barbie Wire and a half to Grade 3-placed Nextdoorneighbor and Bureau de Change.

Pulito put in the time and miles that come with due diligence at the Keeneland September sale, inspecting horses with Brennan at the barns and following them up to the ring on sale days.

Brennan has been work­ing with the Phipps family for seven years, starting with the program’s 2009 crop of year­lings that included Point of Entry, Imagining, and Abaco. He later worked with 2013 Kentucky Derby winner Orb.

“We sell some of them at the sale, but we don’t normally buy them,” Pulito said, “so just going through that process with Niall and him being so open to teaching me and making me see things that I don’t normally look for, because Phipps horses have a little bit of a different look than a lot of the other horses out there, it was interesting to see all that.”

Now that they are part of the Phipps program, the new purchases will go through the same process as a homebred, first joining the rest of the crop at Claiborne Farm, then going to Ocala to begin training with Brennan, and finally to the shed row of trainer Shug McGaughey for their ontrack careers.

The parts may come from different suppliers, but the machine still runs the same.

“It’s been a privilege being around the horses they send down, all the pedigrees and the idea that there’s so much tradition,” Brennan said. “It’s old school. The horses are given plenty of time to develop. They like to race them as 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds.

“It’s not, ‘Give me the results now,’ ” he added. “That’s an amazing experience to deal with in today’s racing environment. Obviously, they want results, but they give horses every chance to deliver.”