The late Ogden Phipps, who bred and raced generations of champion Thoroughbred racehorses, and longtime racing secretary and handicapper Howard Battle, who died of cancer last summer, have been named co-recipients of the Eclipse Award of Merit. The award is given annually in recognition of an individual's lifetime achievements in Thoroughbred racing.
Phipps, a former chairman of The Jockey Club whose homebred champions included Hall of Fame members Buckpasser, Easy Goer and Personal Ensign, died April 22, 2002 at age 93.
The longest reigning member of The Jockey Club at the time of his death, Phipps registered his black and cherry colors in 1932 and was represented by his first stakes winner, White Cockade, three years later. He was elected to The Jockey Club in 1939, succeeding George Widener as chairman in 1964.
Phipps had campaigned a number of top runners up to that point, but none were comparable to Buckpasser, a son of Tom Fool who began his illustrious career as a two-year-old in 1965, eventually winning 25 of 31 starts to earn $1,462,014. Buckpasser was champion all three years he raced and his daughter Relaxing, also a champion, produced Easy Goer, champion two-year-old male of 1988.
Phipps' undefeated filly, Personal Ensign, winner of the 1988 Breeders' Cup Distaff over Kentucky Derby winner Winning Colors, was the first of three generations of Phipps-bred fillies to win Breeders' Cup races. Her daughter My Flag, sired by Easy Goer, went on to win the 1995 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies and My Flag produced 2002 Long John Silver's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Storm Flag Flying. Both Personal Ensign and My Flag were divisional champions as well, with Storm Flag Flying a nominee for champion two-year-old filly this year.
Phipps, a New York City native born Nov. 26, 1908, attended Harvard and later rose to the rank of Commander while serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He was a former partner of Smith Barney & Co. and served as chairman of Bessemer Securities Corporation from 1958 until 1978.
A trustee emeritus of the New York Racing Association, Phipps won Eclipse Awards as the nation's leading owner and leading breeder in 1988 and as the nation's leading owner in 1989. He has received numerous awards through the years, including the Mr. Fitz Award from the National Turf Writers Association in 1989 and the C.V. Whitney Achievement Award from the New York Turf Writers in 1998.
Battle, who died in July 2002, was one of the world's most respected racing officials. He had written the race conditions for Keeneland Race Course since 1973 and as a handicapper was instrumental in establishing a world-class ranking system for horses used by the Breeders' Cup Racing Secretaries and Directors Panel, Experimental Free Handicap Committee and the Graded Stakes Committee.
Battle graduated from Notre Dame University with a Bachelor of Arts degree. Drafted into the Army shortly thereafter, he then spent two years in Tokyo with the U.S. Army Map Service. After his Army discharge, he financed a return to Notre Dame by combining the G.I Bill with a teaching fellowship. He earned his Master of Arts Degree in 1958 with the intention of teaching art in college. Instead, he elected to take a job with an advertising agency in Louisville, Ky., Zimmer/McClasky.
He took off the summer of 1959 to work as a patrol judge at Detroit Race Course, before returning to the advertising firm in the fall. But the lure of the racetrack was exerting a strong pull, and he went back to Detroit.
Battle served as a racing official at Latonia, Toledo and Hialeah before Kenny Noe Jr., racing secretary at Arlington, offered him a job. By 1963, he was assistant racing secretary at the Chicago track. He graduated to racing secretary at Detroit in 1967, then Liberty Bell in Pennsylvania, before being named to succeed Allan W. (Doc) Lavin as Keeneland's racing secretary in 1973. Howard held that position until early 2002, when he became stakes director.