Ogden Mills Phipps, known to everyone in the horse racing world as "Dinny," died April 6 at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City after a long illness. He was 75.
Phipps helmed the last of the great family stables that once dominated Thoroughbred racing in the United States. The fourth generation of his family to race Thoroughbreds in the U.S., Dinny Phipps bred and campaigned champions Inside Information, Rhythm, Storm Flag Flying, and Smuggler, as well as Breeders' Cup Distaff (Gr.I) winner Pleasant Home and four-time grade I winner Dispute. In co-ownership with his cousin Stuart Janney III, Phipps won the 2013 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Gr. I) with Orb.
Phipps served the Thoroughbred industry for many years in many ways. He was chairman of The Jockey Club, the New York Racing Association, the Breeders' Cup board, and the National Thoroughbred Racing Association board at various times. He also worked as a financier and was chairman of his family's Bessemer Trust until retiring from that position in 1994.
His motivation for spending so much of his time and energy on racing issues was embodied in two sentences from a keynote address he delivered in Paris in October 2014 at the meeting of the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities:
"Quite simply, I see it as a way of giving back to a sport that has provided me with so much enjoyment. That was probably passed on to me from my dad, and I try to instill that sense of responsibility and commitment in my kids."
Phipps graduated from Yale University and was an accomplished athlete. He will be inducted into the International Court Tennis Hall of Fame this summer. He was also active in golfing, fishing and hunting, often with his longtime horse trainer Shug McGaughey.
"The biggest thing to me is he was a wonderful guy," McGaughey noted. "When it came time to catch a fish or shoot a bird, it was always your turn and not his. He put you in front of himself. We fished this past February for a week, and even though he was struggling a bit, he wanted to make sure his guests were having a good time. That was the kind of guy he was."
McGaughey added that he expected the stable to continue operating in the same fashion it has going forward.
Phipps realized through court cases the limits of The Jockey Club as far as becoming a central governing body for racing. Separate state governments have meant, in Phipps' words, that, "We can't be the end-all commissioner, but we do have the ability to affect change."
Phipps, in fact, led a rush of innovation at the once staid The Jockey Club. The organization has been a leader in technology over the past 15 years, with The Jockey Club Information Systems, equineline.com, Horse Farm Management software, Incompass Solutions, Technology Services, and Equibase Company providing vital services to the Thoroughbred industry.
Phipps in his later years became an outspoken advocate for getting medication out of horse racing. He was honored with an Eclipse Award of Merit in 1978 and, last August, with The Jockey Club Medal for his exceptional contributions to Thoroughbred racing and breeding industry.
Phipps' great-grandfather Ogden Mills owned horses at the end of the 19th century. His grandmother, Gladys Mills Phipps, who would go on to race as Wheatley Stable, purchased with her brother Ogden Livingston Mills, the yearlings Dice and Diavolo from Harry Payne Whitney in 1926, the year the brother-sister partnership won its first race. Dice became a four-time stakes winner and champion 2-year-old colt of 1927, while Diavolo was the champion handicap male of 1929. Wheatley won the 1957 Preakness Stakes with Bold Ruler. The stable's horses were bred and raised at Claiborne Farm, a partnership that is maintained by the Phipps and Hancock families to this day.
Wheatley bred and raced additional champions Bold Lad, Castle Forbes, High Voltage, Misty Morn, Queen Empress, and Successor. Dinny's father, Ogden Phipps, continued the family success, racing champions Buckpasser, Easy Goer, Impressive, Numbered Account, Personal Ensign, Queen of the Stage, Relaxing, and Vitriolic before turning the stable over to his son.
Phipps began visiting racetracks in early childhood. Except for World War II, he'd been to Saratoga every summer of his life, starting when he was an infant. Phipps recalled when he was 10, children weren't allowed to go to the front side of the racetrack, but "My family would take me to the starting gate and I would ride on it while they watched their horses run. I went to the races a lot with my grandmother, and it has always been a bonding experience for the generations of our family. My dad and I talked horses all the time and we'd go to the stables together in the mornings once I got older. I learned a lot by osmosis just being around it for so long."
Phipps is survived by his wife of 46 years, Andrea; children Kayce, Kelley, Lilly, Daisy, Samantha, and Ogden; and 24 grandchildren. Daisy Phipps Pulito has been handling the day-to-day duties of the stable for the past several years.
Funeral arrangements are incomplete at this time.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation or The Jockey Club Safety Net Foundation. Both are located at The Jockey Club, 40 E. 52nd Street (15th floor), New York, NY, 10022.
Extract from Bloodhorse / Hans Pennink-AP (p)