SI Vault
 
BOLD IS THE BADGE OF CHAMPIONS
Whitney Tower
February 22, 1965
Mrs. Henry Carnegie Phipps has the best-bred racehorses in the U.S., and her Bold Ruler is racing's foremost sire. One of his sons, Bold Lad, remains a favorite for the Kentucky Derby despite an injured foreleg
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
February 22, 1965

Bold Is The Badge Of Champions

Mrs. Henry Carnegie Phipps has the best-bred racehorses in the U.S., and her Bold Ruler is racing's foremost sire. One of his sons, Bold Lad, remains a favorite for the Kentucky Derby despite an injured foreleg

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2 3

The Phippses, however, seldom run second—to other people's horses or to anything else. It has been that way most of the years since Henry Phipps was born in 1839, the son of a cobbler. He grew up in Barefoot Square in Allegheny, Pa. and—at 13—while working for $1.25 a week for a Pittsburgh jeweler, made a pal of another poor boy on the block named Andrew Carnegie. Young Phipps's first share in what later became Carnegie Co. cost him a painfully earned $800, but it seems to have been worth it.

In 1901, after the two had been in a steel partnership for many years, Carnegie sold out to J. P. Morgan who then founded U.S. Steel. Henry Phipps's share of the sale was $50 million. Five years ago the $50 million of 1901 was worth $300 million to the more than 70 living Phippses who draw their incomes from what has been described as a "diversified portfolio of real-estate holdings, corporate bonds and stocks, municipals and governments."

In the last few generations the Phippses and their cousins have married into families with names like Grace, Mills, Martin and Bostwick, and they have become one of the most active and successful sporting tribes of our time. Early on the Phippses used to hunt big game in Africa, shoot grouse in Scotland and cast for salmon in Canada. More recently horses and tennis—court tennis, that is—have preoccupied them. Michael Phipps and his cousin, Winston Guest, were 10-goal polo players, while Raymond Guest rode not far behind at eight goals. Ogden Phipps, now 56 and chairman of The Jockey Club, long ago became so enchanted with the old French game of court tennis—and subsequently so good at it—that he was eight times national amateur champion. His cousin, Alastair Martin, was also an eight-time champion. And now Ogden's 24-year-old son Dinny who, like Bold Lad, has never missed an oat in his life (weight, 275 pounds), is defending amateur doubles champ with Northrup Knox, after playing No. 2 on both the tennis and squash teams at Yale.

Ogden's brother-in-law, Pete Bostwick, another high-goal polo player, once rode for John Hay Whitney in England's Grand National Steeplechase. Pete has since become one of the leading jumping trainers in the U.S. Both his older sons are star court tennis and racquets players and top golfers; one of them, Jimmy, is the defending amateur golf champion of France. One of Pete's brothers, A. C. Bostwick, owns a few racehorses, but another one, Dunbar, must be considered a maverick by Phipps standards. He is a harness-horse breeder and owner, an official in the U.S. Trotting Association and treasurer of The Hambletonian Society.

Other Phippses and their in-laws ride to hounds in Maryland and Virginia. Former polo star Mike Phipps, now on Hialeah's Board of Directors, operates a first-class Thoroughbred training center at St. Lucie, Fla., while down the road in Palm Beach (where almost all the Phippses can beg a bed in the house of one relative or another), Mrs. Ogden Phipps's daughter Lilly Lee McKim Pulitzer invented the dress that bears her name—Lilly—and made a business success on her own. Her husband, Peter Pulitzer, a crack shot with rifle and shotgun, was co-driver on the winning boat in the 1964 Miami-to-Nassau powerboat race. Who did it belong to? Why, young Dinny Phipps, of course, who since then has bought a marine company in Miami that specializes in motors rather than hulls. So far those engines are responsible for three finishers in the first six in last fall's Salton City 500 and more recently for the one-two boats in the Orange Bowl Regatta.

One Phipps who certainly will not be distracted from horse racing by boats or anything else is the leader of the clan, the former Gladys Mills, now the 80-year-old widow of Henry Carnegie Phipps and mother of Ogden. Starting with only five horses nearly 40 years ago, she has had amazing success with her stable (called Wheatley for Wheatley Road on Long Island) and has rarely had a losing season. She still makes out her own list each year of which broodmares are to be bred to which stallions and thoroughly enjoys being more successful with her horses than Ogden has been with his. She gets to the races whenever possible. On Long Island, two or three times a week, she drives her Bentley to the stables at Belmont. There, with a passenger cargo of several dogs, she feeds the horses sugar and talks over racing plans with Trainer Winfrey.

No Phipps has ever been a publicity hound. Until Dinny slightly altered the family pattern by hobnobbing in track press boxes and frequenting Toots Shor's, none considered the press anything more than a necessary evil of the modern age. One exception has been Ogden's wife, the former Lillian Bostwick. who has done more than anyone in America to encourage participation in jump racing and continually urges racing writers to give her sport more of a play in print. The owner of Wheatley Stable, however, feels no similar compulsion to grant interviews, even when they pertain to her Bold Lad, and it has been reported by members of her family that she does not exactly roar with laughter at the sight of some cartoons of her that appear from time to time in The Morning Telegraph and Daily Racing Form .

Although she is extremely shy and not given to imperious gestures, Mrs. Phipps must still be considered the grand dame of American racing. Her son, Ogden, has himself been in the game for some 30 years, but it wasn't until the sale of the late Colonel E. R. Bradley's stock in the mid-'40s that the Phipps racing fortunes began their rise to the top. It was then, recalls Bull Hancock, that Ogden wisely concentrated on building up a broodmare band. (Misty Morn, the dam of Bold Lad, was the champion of her sex in 1955.) Because of that, the Phippses today have the best-bred stable in the country. It includes, in addition to 47 horses in training—18 of them Bold Rulers—45 broodmares, some two dozen newly turned yearlings and the expectation of an equal number of new foals this spring. If, for some hard-to-imagine reason, the Phippses decided to sell out everything tomorrow, $15 million would be a reasonable bid. The mares alone would bring around $2.5 million, Bold Ruler would command the same price, and Bold Lad is already worth $2 million. Of course, Ogden and his mother have no intention of selling, either now or in the foreseeable future. As chairman of The Jockey Club and a trustee of the New York Racing Association, Ogden tries to show up at the track every time a Phipps horse runs. He is as shy as his mother—a trait often mistaken for aloofness—and unbends only with close racing friends or when golfing with nonracing friends. One of the latter, Grumman Test Pilot Tom LeBoutillier, says of him, "He claims he's a 10-handicap player but he plays to a four, and if you let your guard down for a minute he'll empty your pockets. His croquet-style putting is murderous." Ogden's friends also know him to be a top bridge player and a whiz at backgammon.

It surprised no one when the Phippses wound up with Bill Winfrey as their trainer. Ogden says of the appointment, "Bill can train fillies as well as he can train colts—and we find that equally important." Adviser Bull Hancock adds, "Bill can take good horses or bad horses and do well with them. His horses look well, he uses good judgment, he has good help, and his horses are relaxed and settled and are never rushed along."

Nobody in racehorse training got a better education in his trade than Bill Winfrey, and no trainer today has won more friends and respect. Winfrey was born 48 years ago in Detroit. His father died when he was 3, and two years later his mother married Trainer Carey Winfrey, whom Bill called Pop until his death a few years ago. Carey was one of his generation's great horsemen, in the tradition of Preston Burch and the late George Odom and Ben Jones. He used to work the New York circuit in the summer and go down to New Orleans in the winter. "Sometimes, when I was only 6 or 7," says Bill, "I used to sleep in Pop's bed, and I'd put a leg lock on him so he couldn't go to the track in the morning without me."

Continue Story
1 2 3
Related Topics
  ARTICLES GALLERIES COVERS
Trainer Winfrey 1 0 0
Henry Carnegie Phipps 3 0 0
Ogden 18 0 0
Bill Winfrey 9 0 0
Ogden Phipps 23 0 0