Joe Clancy's July 2013 Editorial
The party at heaven’s Reading Room must have been something.
Stuart Janney Jr. and his wife Barbara were there. Her mother, Gladys, led the toasts. Ogden Phipps held court at a corner table, proud of his nephew and son. Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons, Frank Whiteley and Charlie Hadry sat on the porch and told stories.
They talked about Bold Ruler, Bold Irish, Shenanigans, Ruffian, Easy Goer, Private Terms, maybe even good old Winton.
The 2013 Kentucky Derby brought a result that should have confirmed the passion of anyone in Thoroughbred racing. Orb’s win, for Stuart Janney III and the Phipps Stable, struck a blow for doing things the old-fashioned way–for breeding, for patience, for longevity, for only running when you think you’ve got a chance, for believing in (and sticking to) a plan.
Gladys Mills Phipps and her brother Ogden Mills, racing as Wheatley Stable, built a powerhouse racing operation trained by Hall of Famers Fitzsimmons and Eddie Neloy. Wheatley won its first race in 1926, campaigned the likes of Bold Ruler, What a Pleasure, Misty Morn. More important than any of Wheatley’s wins, the stable began the still-thriving Phipps family racing and breeding program now in its fourth generation.
Orb paid homage to that legacy, with an electric, powerful, mud-splattered charge home in the Derby May 4. Trained by Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey for Marylander Stuart Janney III and the Phipps Stable, the bay 3-year-old owes his lineage to Gladys Phipps.
She gave her daughter, Barbara Phipps Janney, the mare Bold Irish. She was bred by Claiborne Farm?–?still the family’s choice for bloodstock advice and care today–and was given as a way to help Barbara’s husband Stuart Janney Jr. expand his Thoroughbred thoughts to flat racing. Janney was an amateur steeplechase jockey and foxhunter in Maryland. He won the famed Maryland Hunt Cup four times, including a triple with the incomparable Winton before and after World War II.
The Janneys, who lived at Locust Hill Farm in Butler, took to their new pursuit.
A foal of 1948, Bold Irish produced Shenanigans, a Maryland-bred daughter of the great Native Dancer (who stood at nearby Sagamore Farm) in 1963. Shenanigans became a producer of greatness many times over. Her sons Icecapade and Buckfinder were major winners and sires. Her daughter Ruffian, of course, flashed like a comet on racing–winning her first 10 starts for Whiteley before being tragically injured in a match race with Foolish Pleasure in 1975. Fate has a way of tempering tragedy, and came through with Laughter–the only surviving daughter of Shenanigans. Ruffian’s older half-sister, by Bold Ruler, produced Grade 1 winner, millionaire and future sire Private Terms (trained by Hadry). In addition, her sons Blue Ensign, Light Spirits and Dover Ridge all won stakes and became sires. Laughter’s stakes-winning daughter Steel Maiden produced Black-Eyed Susan winner Mesabi Maiden, who produced Lady Liberty. She never won a stakes, but did something her esteemed relatives couldn’t do, produce a Kentucky Derby winner–the first for the Phipps family.
That’s seven generations of Thoroughbreds–spanning some 65 years from the birth of Bold Irish to Orb’s Derby victory.
What’s the point of all this history? That it matters. Racing is built on such legacies, whether you’re a Phipps or a Phillips, a Janney or a Jones. And at a root level, the sport counts on them for the production of Thoroughbreds that make the game go.
Breeders do research, study pedigrees, get advice, make decisions–yet still take great leaps of faith on the inexact process of nature.
You can do all the work you want, but it still might not result in success. If Laughter was born a colt, Orb may not have happened. If Gladys Phipps had given her daughter a mare other than Bold Irish, Orb may not have happened. If Shenanigans spooked from a tractor or colicked or got kicked in the field, Orb may not have happened.
The variables can be staggering, but so can the rewards.