A highly competitive field of nine will line up Thursday for the $70,000 Mrs. Ogden Phipps, the first steeplechase stakes race for fillies and mares ever run at historic Saratoga Race Course.
Lonesome Nun, now campaigned by leading owner Irvin S. Naylor and trained by Brianne Slater, enters the 2 1/16-mile race over nine National Fences from a third-place finish in the $40,000 Valentine Memorial at the Fair Hill Races in Maryland on May 28. Formerly owned and trained by Bruce Miller, Lonesome Nun finished a good second in the $50,000 Margaret Currey Henley at the Iroquois Steeplechase in Nashville on May 14.
Darren Nagle will ride the six-year-old Vicar mare, who was bred by Miller’s daughter, former champion jockey Blythe Miller Davies.
Arcadia Stables’ Opera Heroine will again seek to carry her speed to a victory on Saratoga’s inner turf course. The seven-year-old Partner’s Hero mare scored her maiden win over fences by seven lengths after setting all the pace at the Saratoga Open House on July 17.
In her previous starts, Opera Heroine had finished fourth in the Valentine and sixth in the Henley. Trainer Jack Fisher named Willie Dowling for a return ride aboard Opera Heroine. Fisher also entered Maya Charli, a four-year-old filly who is seeking her first win over fences.
Finishing second and third, respectively, behind Opera House at the Saratoga Open House were Bill Pape’s Beating the Odds and Tuatha De Danann Stable’s Red Dirt Girl. Trainer Jonathan Sheppard tapped Brian Crowley to ride Beating the Odds in the Mrs. Phipps, and Robbie Walsh will be aboard Red Dirt Girl for trainer Richard Valentine.
Looking to regain her 2010 form is Flying Horse Stable’s Farah T Salute, winner of the $30,000 Crown Royal Hurdle at Callaway Gardens in Georgia last November. This season, the eight-year-old bred and trained by Jazz Napravnik was pulled up in the Henley and finished seventh in the Valentine.
Fox Ridge Farm’s Upper Gulch will seek to capitalize on her maiden victory over fences at the Strawberry Hill Races at Colonial Downs on May 21. Trainer Tom Voss named current leading jockey Paddy Young for a return engagement aboard the six-year-old Gulch mare.
Magalen O. Bryant’s Well Fashioned, second to Upper Gulch at Strawberry Hill, returned to the Virginia track to defeat males by 4 1/4 lengths in a maiden hurdle race on June 12.
Completing the field is Deputy Empress, who scored her maiden victory on April 30 at the Foxfield Spring races in Virginia, where she prevailed by a length over Maya Charli. Owned by trainer Lili Kurtinecz and Jodi Rauso, Deputy Empress subsequently was pulled up in the Valentine and a Colonial Downs claiming race over fences on June 12.
The new steeplechase stakes race honors the memory of Lillian Bostwick Phipps, who was a leading steeplechase owner from the 1950s into the 1970s. While her husband developed one of the nation’s premier flat stables, Mrs. Phipps concentrated on steeplechase horses.
Sister of Racing Hall of Fame jockey George A. “Pete” Bostwick, she campaigned two Hall of Fame steeplechase horses, Oedipus and Neji. Mrs. Phipps was the champion steeplechase owner 11 times, in 1950-51, 1954-57, 1965-67, and 1969-70.