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Gladys Mills Phipps

Gladys Mills Phipps
Induction Year: 
2019
Born: 
June 19, 1883, Newport, R.I.
Died: 
Oct. 19, 1970, Roslyn, N.Y.

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Bio

Gladys Mills Phipps made her first purchases of yearlings at the Saratoga sale in 1925, and several months later, on Feb. 4, 1926, Sturdy Stella won a quarter-mile dash at the old Miami track for her Wheatley Stable. 

 

The racing records of the first three runners that Mrs. Phipps purchased were modest, at best, but the next draft of horses she acquired launched the levels of success and importance that came to be the hallmark of Wheatley Stable as well as the subsequent breeding and racing operations of her children, grandchildren, and — today — great-grandchildren.

 

Mrs. Phipps’ family combined the fortunes gathered by two energetic and innovative Americans in the second half of the 19th century. Her grandfather on her mother’s side was Darius Ogden Mills, who had been well positioned as a western banker when the Gold Rush blossomed and rode good times to Wall Street. Mrs. Phipps, nee Gladys Mills, married Henry Carnegie Phipps, whose father had been a key associate of the ambitious Andrew Carnegie. In helping the creation of Carnegie’s massive fortune, Henry Phipps gathered a very nice one for himself.

 

A friend of the Phipps family was Harry Payne Whitney, a leading thoroughbred breeder and owner who encouraged Mrs. Phipps in her budding interest in racing. Whitney sold Mrs. Phipps a draft of eight horses that she raced. They included Dice, a top juvenile of 1927 before an untimely death, plus Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Diavalo, Wood Memorial winner Distraction, and Alabama Stakes winner Nixie.

 

Wheatley Stable, in which Mrs. Phipps’ brother, Treasury Secretary Ogden Livingston Mills, was an early partner, was named for a New York family estate in Old Westbury, Long Island. With the advent of those accomplished Whitney-breds, the Wheatley gold and purple silks were launched into a prominence which carried through the rest of Mrs. Phipps’ life — and beyond. Mrs. Phipps’ son, Ogden Phipps, had an interest in racing early enough that he always thought perhaps that interest helped heighten hers. Ogden had a separate stable as early as the young 1930s and came to use the same trainer as his mother, James “Sunny Jim” Fitzsimmons, and also eventually boarded his stock at the Hancock family’s Claiborne Farm in Kentucky, as she did.

 

Ironically, one of the key distinctions of Wheatley as a breeder did not redound to its status as an owner. Seabiscuit, a Hard Tack colt foaled in 1933, teased Fitzsimmons into realizing there was potential there, but did not blossom through a demanding campaign of 35 races as a 2-year-old. It was only after Mrs. Phipps had sold the colt to Charles S. Howard that Seabiscuit rose to championship honors and scored his signature victory when he defeated War Admiral in the 1938 Pimlico Special.

 

Through the 1930s and 1940s, Wheatley bred and raced standouts such as Coaching Club American Oaks winner Edelweiss and Metropolitan and Suburban Handicaps winner Snark, while the stable won two Jockey Club Gold Cups with the savvy purchase Dark Secret. Then, in the 1950s and 1960s, Mrs. Phipps bred a spate of eight champions, seven of which she raced throughout their careers.

 

Superb additional purchases which augmented Mrs. Phipps’ powerful broodmare band included Grey Flight, destined to produce no fewer than nine stakes winners, and Miss Disco, who gained immorality as the dam of the singular Bold Ruler. 

 

The brigade of champions was led by High Voltage, the champion juvenile filly of 1954 and winner of the Coaching Club American Oaks and four other major stakes as a sophomore. Despite that fine 3-year-old record, High Voltage was bested for that division’s 1955 championship by stablemate Misty Morn. A member of Grey Flight’s jewel of a brood, Misty Morn punctuated her campaign of five stakes wins with a gaudy victory in the Gallant Fox Handicap against not just males, but older males.

 

That brought Wheatley and Fitzsimmons to 1956, when the Nasrullah colt out of Miss Disco introduced the turf world to the name of Bold Ruler. Partnered by master jockey Eddie Arcaro, Bold Ruler was brilliant early at two and continued through his campaign as the apparent leader of the division. After a Belmont Futurity win that seemed to clinch matters, though, Bold Ruler suffered back-to-back defeats at the longer distances of the division, and Barbizon beat him out in the championship voting. As a sophomore, Bold Ruler became the Phipps family’s first classic winner when he prevailed in the 1957 Preakness. Competing among one of the finest crops of 3-year-olds in history, Bold Ruler defeated fellow stars Gallant Man and Round Table in the Trenton Handicap en route to being named champion 3-year-old.

 

Bold Ruler’s quality, and Mrs. Phipps’ sportsmanship, saw him win two 1¼ -mile handicaps — the Suburban and Monmouth — under 134 pounds as a 4-year-old. He then was retired to Claiborne to begin a remarkable stud career, leading the sire list eight times, including seven years in a row. Not since Lexington, of the previous century, had an American stallion put together such a sequence of statistical dominance.

 

The Bold Rulers populated other stables as well, but Wheatley enjoyed them as much as anyone. The stable and stallion produced both the juvenile champions of 1964, Bold Lad and Queen Empress, and the 1966 juvenile colt champion, Successor.

 

Mrs. Phipps passed away at 87 in 1970, having bred or co-bred a total of 102 stakes winners, including 13 champions. Her son, Ogden, had established similar success which was accompanied by major success for own children, Dinny and Cynthia Phipps. Meanwhile, Mrs. Phipps’ daughter, Mrs. Stuart Janney, Jr., and her husband were managing a strand of a broodmare band leading to their great champion Ruffian.

 

“Mrs. Phipps of Wheatley Stable” is a phrase etched by history, for history.

 

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