First Running of Phipps Saturday at Belmont

From the New York Racing Association:

Saturday, two months to the day that the great sportsman Ogden Phipps passed away at the age of 93, the feature race at Belmont will be run in his honor.

Formerly known as the Hempstead, the grade 1, $300,000 Ogden Phipps Handicap for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 mile does not have a horse bred or owned by the Phipps family, but while the black and cherry Phipps' colors will not be worn by a jockey in the Saturday feature, there will be plenty of sentiment at the track for the man who raced nine champions and whose impact on Thoroughbred racing is immeasurable.

Trophy company F. Gorevic & Son donated a silver gilt cup made in 1822 and worth $20,000 to serve as the permanent trophy for the Phipps Handicap because of Phipps' fondness for that particular treasure.

Trainer Mark Hennig is hoping one of the fillies he trains, Lee Lewis' Mystic Lady or Edward Evans' Raging Fever, will be the first to have her name engraved on a special base for the trophy.

Since returning from a layoff over the winter, Raging Fever has won four of six starts but comes into the Phipps off a defeat to rival Shiny Band in the one-mile Shuvee. The 4-year-old Storm Cat filly had the lead over a sealed track, fending off Victory Ride before Shiny Band passed her along the rail.

"The second quarter was a little aggressive," Hennig said of the :22 3/5 split after a :23 opening quarter. "It felt like a two-horse race between her and Victory Ride and then the winner closed up the rail."

Raging Fever has not run as far as the Phipps distance since she ran sixth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I). She does have a win at the distance, scoring in the Frizette (gr. I) two years ago.

"It doesn't seem like the extra sixteenth will hurt her," said Hennig when asked about the slight stretch out. "She's a lot more mature and relaxed now than she was when she won the Frizette as a 2-year-old."

The usually consistent Mystic Lady is coming off a drubbing as the 1-5 favorite in Delaware Park's Nastique. Chasing the early pace, the daughter of Thunder Gulch came to a screeching halt, beaten more than 30 lengths in the four-horse field.

"I can't blame it on the track because she has not handled some surfaces before and still tried very hard," Hennig said. "The only thing I can think of is that she charged the gate before the start. She came back well with no indication of anything wrong. Because of that race, I can't go over there with as much confidence in her as I usually would."

The field, from the rail out:
Hope's Expectation, 112, Julio Pezua
Shiny Band, 115, Robbie Davis
Critical Eye, 11, Michael Luzzi
Mystic Lady, 117, Eibar Coa
Happily Unbridled, 113, Jorge Chavez
Too Scarlet, 113, Jean-Luc Samyn
Two Item Limit, 114, Javier Castellano
Raging Fever, 120, John Velazquez
Transcendental, 112, Edgar Prado