Q-Racing Blog: Life Changing Experiences

A single moment can ignite a lifetime's work.

Q-Racing Journal

A single moment can ignite a lifetime's work.

Many people are born into the racehorse business. Their parents are in the game or it is just the family business. Others, like me, had no connections to racing when I decided to get involved with this horse racing thing.

My decision started with one horse. He changed my life and I was reminded of the moment that I saw Buckpasser with the death of Ogden Mills “Dinny” Phipps this week. His father, Ogden Phipps, bred and raced Buckpasser.

I was 15-years-old and my family drove from Colorado back to Pennsylvania to visit all the relatives. I was showing on the Rocky Mountain circuit, so I was accustomed to seeing Quarter Horses of 1960s vintage, but we were heading home and I wanted to see some farms near Lexington, Kentucky. So did my dad. Done deal.

Aged stone walls lined Paris Pike, the road from Lexington heading north to Paris, home of Claiborne Farm. Dappled mares lazily grazed while their mischievous foals romped amongst them. We pulled into Claiborne Farm on that gorgeous summer day.

Surprisingly, to me, we were welcomed. I wanted to see Bold Ruler. I did know that he was a leading sire, not much more. He was in a stall that has since been occupied by Secretariat, Easy Goer and Unbridled. It is called by Claiborne Farm the premier stall on the farm.

The groom brought out Bold Ruler and my entire trip instantly became worthwhile. I was looking at a history-making horse.

Then the groom asked if we would like to see Buckpasser. “Sure,” we said. I knew he had been a tremendous racehorse the previous few years.

This was the summer after the first year at stud for the 1966 horse of the year. He had set a world record at a mile (1:32 3/5) in the Arlington Derby, part of a 15-race winning streak.

Buckpasser walked from the barn’s shadow into the bright Kentucky sunshine and I was awestruck. I didn’t know God created horses that looked like this. Much later, I learned my opinion was not alone.

The famed Dr. Manual Gilman said, “Generally, every horse has about a hundred faults of conformation. I would defy anyone to pick a flaw in Buckpasser.”

Legendary horse painter Richard Stone Reeves said, “Buckpasser was the most perfectly proportioned Thoroughbred I have ever seen. Only two horses, Secretariat and Affirmed, have been in a class with Buckpasser.”

I have since been within arm’s length of Secretariat and Affirmed. They were great horses, but it’s like your first love. I’ll go with Buckpasser.

The Phipps family may have never owned an American Quarter Horse, however, much can be learned from how the family managed their horse operation over the last four generations.

The Phipps family is New York to the core. They keep their horses at Claiborne Farm. The family money came from his grandfather, Henry Phipps, second largest shareholder in the Carnegie Steel Company.

Dinny Phipps’ grandmother and her cousin loved horses and horseracing. They formed Wheatley Stable in 1926 and later bred Bold Ruler. After World War II, Ogden bought horses from the Estate of Colonel Edward R. Bradley.

The Phipps family put together one of the greatest line of broodmares of the 20th century. They were race mares.

Ogden Phipps bred nine champions. In addition to Buckpasser, he bred hall of famers Personal Ensign and Easy Goer. He also lost the famous 1969 coin toss that gave a Bold Ruler colt to be named Secretariat to Meadow Stable. Actually, he won the toss and chose Somethingroyal’s first foal, a filly. The Chenery family’s Meadow Stable got the second foal, Secretariat.

Dinny Phipps won the 2013 Kentucky Derby with Orb. He also won with champion homebreds Rhythm, Inside Information, Storm Flag Flying and Smuggler.

These are all Thoroughbreds of the highest order. There are lessons that can be learned from the Phipps dynasty.

Year after year, decade after decade, generation after generation, they bred racehorses. They did not chase fashion. Research the Phipps history and you will not read about Phipps-bred high-selling yearlings. You read about champions and iconic stakes winners.

You will also learn about Dinny Phipps’ staunch dedication to clean racing and racing integrity.

Dinny Phipps’ hall of fame trainer Shug McGaughey said: “He loved what he did. He loved racing. And he put his name out there time and time again when he didn’t need to try and make it a better world.”

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