(Edited report from New York Racing Association)
Phipps Stable’s Persistently appeared well the morning after her one-length upset victory over reigning Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra in Aug. 29, grade I, $300,000 Personal Ensign Invitational.
"She’s doing well, I’m tired, but she seemed to come back fine," said Persistently’s Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey. "A lot of times it doesn’t hit them until a couple of days later, but she cooled out great. We’ve retooled (her schedule) to point for the Beldame (gr. I, $350,000 1 1/8 miles on the Belmont Park main track Oct. 2); that’s our next stop."
McGaughey also pondered the road that led him to try the Personal Ensign with the filly, who tried two turns for the first time earlier in the Saratoga meet, winning a 1 1/8-mile second-level allowance optional claiming race on July 30.
"It’s funny," McGaughey said. "I always thought she was a come-from-behind sprinter. When the book came out and there was a two-other-than going a mile and an eighth, I thought, ‘well, might as well give it a try.’ She ran a great race that day. [Yesterday] I think she would have run around there again. Her pedigree says that – I should have been a bit smarter. I remember Heavenly Prize struggled a little bit early in her 3-year-old year and we ran her in the Alabama and then it was all different."
McGaughey – who has now trained four winners of the race, including Heavenly Prize in 1995 – said he did not point Persistently for the Personal Ensign, but when faced with two options for the filly’s next start, conferred with owner Ogden Phipps and decided to run.
"Mr. Phipps said he thought if it came up a short field, he would like to give this a try, which was probably down deep what I wanted to do, too," McGaughey explained. "Going into it, believe me, it was all ‘Let’s see what happens.’ We weren’t going into it thinking we were going to win."
But, to their surprise, Persistently gave McGaughey and the Phipps Stable a victory in the race named for their undefeated champion mare, who died earlier this year at the age of 26.
"You couldn’t write a script like this in Hollywood," fellow Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas told McGaughey when he stopped by the barn to offer his congratulations. "Especially with the cast and the way it happened and the race named after the mare? I was happy for you."
"It was fun," McGaughey said. "I really enjoyed the whole thing. I enjoyed seeing Rachel Alexandra in the paddock, and the fans. I told (my wife) Allison when we were walking out of the paddock, ‘Let’s go upstairs and watch Rachel Alexandra run.’
"As I was watching us, I also had an eye on what was going on up in front of us, when they turned down the backside, I thought Persistently was really in kind of a good flow. I didn’t know what that meant at that time. When they started catching up, I was a little bit surprised that we were as close as we were at the quarter pole and then when (Rachel Alexandra) slipped away a little bit at the eighth pole I thought ‘uh oh,’ [but] we just kept coming."