Ogden Mills Phipps said the fatal injury suffered by his family stable's Pine Island in the Nov. 4 Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I) only serves to recommit him to additional attention and resources to equine research and organizations such as the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation.
"We think it's important to raise money for research," Phipps said. "It's important for all of us in the business to do something about racing injuries and to minimize them."
Phipps said he does not believe the condition of the Churchill Downs dirt racing surface led to the catastrophic injury to Pine Island's left front fetlock in a race that also saw favorite Fleet Indian pull up at the top of the stretch with a suspensory injury. "I had no concerns about the track," Phipps said about a surface some jockeys and horsemen called inconsistent in its footing. "I had heard some horses liked the track and other hadn't. Never did I hear it was unsafe, or never was there any thought going in that there was something wrong with our filly."
Pine Island, trained by Shug McGaughey, was a 3-year-old daughter of Arch
out of the Seeking the Gold
mare, Matlacha Pass, a full sister to 2005 Breeders' Cup Distaff winner Pleasant Home. Bred in Kentucky by the Phipps Stable, Pine Island didn't race at 2. She won her first two starts this year -- a maiden and allowance race--then was jumped into grade I competition, where she finished second in both the Mother Goose and Coaching Club American Oaks, She followed that with grade I victories in the Alabama and Gazelle Stakes prior to the Breeders' Cup.
"I think she was spectacular," Phipps said. "She had unbelievable ability, and her brain was extraordinary to be able to absorb what she did to go into those grade I races in such a short amount of time. She was uncanny and had an amazing ability to learn."
Phipps said he watched the Distaff from the Churchill Downs grandstand and then rushed to the track when he saw Pine Island's head bob in the run down the backstretch.
"I was with Dr. (Larry) Bramlage and Dr. (Mark) Cheney, and was at least very comforted by the fact I was talking with someone who knew exactly what we had to do. I never saw the filly on the ground until I saw a picture in the paper the next morning. And that wasn't a very good moment."
Phipps also said his daughter, Daisy Phipps, recently left her job with the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, where she was involved in television production, and will be active in running the family stable.
"I told her I would love to have a third of her time to help with the Phipps Stable, to look after some of the things I don't have time to do," he said. "She is moving to Lexington and will spend two-thirds of her time doing something else, but a third of her time will be focused on our horses."
Part of that focus, he said, will be to continue to "try and breed soundness into our horses. We try not to breed bad-kneed horses to bad-kneed horses. We look at all of that, and we also try to look at stallions that we think raced more drug-free than others."