Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey looked out at the audience and recalled, with clarity and detail, the fairly ordinary afternoon of Sept. 15, 1993 at Belmont Park, when a maiden special weight for 2-year-old fillies was split into two divisions. A pair of homebreds, one owned by Ogden Phipps and one by his son Ogden Mills “Dinny” Phipps, won the two divisions by a combined 16 1/2 lengths.
“We were obviously very encouraged by their respective performances, but I don’t think anyone, at that time, could have predicted that they would both end up in the Racing Hall of Fame,” McGaughey said.
Heavenly Prize joined her stablemate Inside Information and other racing greats on Friday as the lone contemporary runner honored at this year’s National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame induction ceremony. The ceremony was held at Fasig-Tipton’s Humphrey S. Finney Sales Pavilion in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., just around the corner from the museum itself, which will see changes in coming years as it seeks to better showcase the sport’s legends. Museum president John Hendrickson announced at the ceremony that the Hall of Fame will be renovated to include a video theater and interactive information in a multimillion dollar project expected to be completed by 2020.
Champion Heavenly Prize was a model of consistency at the highest levels, winning 9 of 18 career starts, never missing the board while running almost exclusively in stakes company, and winning Grade 1 stakes at ages 2, 3, and 4. She won the Grade 1 Frizette Stakes in just her second outing, then was third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. The following year, she won the Grade 1 Alabama Stakes, Grade 1 Gazelle Stakes, and beat older females in the Grade 1 Beldame Stakes before finishing second by a neck in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff to upset winner One Dreamer. She was voted the Eclipse Award champion 3-year-old female of 1994.
The next season, Heavenly Prize added four more Grade 1 victories in the Apple Blossom Handicap, Hempstead Handicap, Go for Wand Stakes, and John A. Morris Handicap. She was then second in stablemate Inside Information’s tour-de-force 13 1/2-length victory in that year’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff. Inside Information, that year’s champion older female, was voted into the Hall of Fame in 2008.
“I still remember Mr. Phipps’s comment to me after the [Distaff],” McGaughey said. “He looked up at me from his box and said, ‘The wrong horse won!’ I’m quite sure he was kidding, because he had a smile on his face when he said it.”
In addition to her three Breeders’ Cup placings, Heavenly Prize recorded four other Grade 1 placings, including a third against males in the 1996 Donn Handicap, won by the great Cigar.
“It was a tremendous honor to train her throughout her career and to accept this great honor on behalf of the Phipps family,” McGaughey said. “It was a privilege to have a filly like Heavenly Prize in the barn, and she brought us a lot of joy throughout her career.”
Heavenly Prize, by Claiborne Farm stallion Seeking the Gold, was foaled and later resided as a broodmare at Claiborne in Paris, Ky., for the Phipps family, which has long boarded its stock at the farm. Appropriately, Arthur B. Hancock Sr., who founded Claiborne more than a century ago, was among the dozen who entered the Hall on Friday as Pillars of the Turf, a category for Thoroughbred industry influencers unveiled in 2013. Also inducted was the late Penny Chenery, who is indelibly linked to the immortal Secretariat, her 1973 Triple Crown winner who spent his stud career at Claiborne. Chenery’s daughter Kate Chenery Tweedy acknowledged those ties while accepting for her mother, noting that Hancock advised her grandfather Christopher Chenery when he became involved in racing.
Links such as these were apparent throughout Friday’s ceremony. In a year in which racing partnerships have taken center stage, Cot Campbell also took his place onstage Friday as a Pillar of the Turf inductee. Campbell founded the innovative Dogwood Stable, which paved the way for other racing partnerships.
“It made sense,” Campbell said of founding Dogwood to bring new people into the sport. Dogwood merged with Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners in 2013, and many former Dogwood partners have continued on to become involved with additional racehorses.
“Over 1,200 people have come into racing through Dogwood, and I believe half the people racing horses in America are racing in some sort of partnership,” Campbell said.
Campbell, who called his life “exciting, adventurous, glamorous, bizarre, tumultuous,” credited his wife, Anne, and horse racing for his success and happiness. He recalled seeing Man o’ War as a driving force in his decision to pursue racing.
“I thank Man o’ War, because he lit the fuse that caused me to pursue an absolutely wonderful life,” Campbell said.
John Morrissey, the originator of Thoroughbred racing at Saratoga, joined the Hall on the anniversary of when the track first opened, on Aug. 3, 1863. And on the eve of the Whitney Handicap at Saratoga, Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney, Harry Payne Whitney, and Williams Collins Whitney were all also inducted.
“He loved the sport and the people in it,” said Marylou Whitney, former wife of C.V. Whitney, who accepted for the family trio along with C.V.’s nephew Leverett Miller.
Marylou Whitney, an owner and breeder, was one of several active participants in racing who made the great legacies of the Pillars of the Turf honorees apparent.
Accepting for John W. Galbreath was his grandson John Phillips, now the steward of Darby Dan Farm, and accepting for Hal Price Headley was his grandson Headley Bell, who mans Mill Ridge Farm. Arthur Hancock III of Stone Farm accepted for his grandfather, as well.
Elias J. “Lucky” Baldwin, August Belmont I, and Charles H. Strub rounded out the Pillars of the Turf group. The racehorse Preakness, namesake of the second leg of the Triple Crown, and trainer William Lakeland were selected for induction by the Hall’s Historic Review Committee.
“What a wonderful history lesson,” emcee Kenny Rice of NBC Sports said of Friday’s ceremony.
This story originally appeared on DRF.com.
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