12/05/2011 2:05PM

Tampa Bay: Phipps settles in for meet

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OLDSMAR, Fla. – Racing fans should recognize Will Phipps’ name, as the trainer has been running horses at Tampa since 2009, but this will be the first time the young horsemen will be stabling horses on the grounds at Tampa Bay Downs.

Phipps, who won at a 28-percent clip locally in 2009-2110, had an off year in 2110-2011, with just 4 winners locally but had 7 seconds from 33 starters. After stabling first at Payson Park and then at Ocala, Phipps decided to stable on the grounds here for the first time, citing economics and the good reputation of Tampa’s main track and turf course among the reasons for bring his string of 15 here this winter.

“I talked it over with my owners, and most agreed that with the current economic climate it made more sense for us to come here rather than rent stall space elsewhere,” the trainer explained, “I had also been impressed with the surfaces both on the main track and turf course when I shipped in to run and since many of my runners are turf horses I was pleased to be able to race over this course, a surface I personally think is as good as any in the country.”

Phipps developed the stakes-winning Dream Rush and brought back veteran Fierce Wind to win the Challenger Stakes here in 2009, the first year he trained his own string. A former steeplechase rider, Phipps began with Mid-Atlantic mainstay Tommy Voss then later moved to Hall of Famer Bill Mott’s stable, working there for five years.

This season Phipps will have a good mix of seasoned runners and young developing maidens, several of whom he has high hopes for.

“I’ve got several for George and Sue Sensor, including a nice filly named Lorelei’s Song that we think could be a good one. They also have Doe Run and King Haigler among others and have been with me since I struck out on my own. I’ve also got horses with Peter Vegso, including Ninja Warrior, who is a full brother to stakes winner War Monger. We also have horses for Anthony Lage under Bluegrass Empire Stable, including a filly named Commander Sue and also have several for Trade Winds Farm.

“We’ve tried to assemble a lineup that includes horses that fit the claiming program here along with the young runners that we hope will develop nicely here. This surface has a great reputation, and while it was a little on the hard side when we got here it has started to get a bit softer and more forgiving in the past week or so, and that’s what we’re looking for. We are hoping to develop good, sound young runners while keeping our older stock as sound as possible too.”