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Heavenly Prize joins stablemate ... in Hall of Fame

Heavenly Prize joins stablemate ... in Hall of Fame

Phipps mare won eight Grade I stakes, including three at Saratoga Race Course
Heavenly Prize joins stablemate ... in Hall of Fame
Shug McGaughey, Hall of Fame trainer, accepts the plaque for Heavenly Prize from museum director Cathy Marino.
Photographer: ERICA MILLER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER

Shug McGaughey couldn’t keep them separated forever.

The trainer had two talented fillies ready to begin their respective careers in the fall of 1993, which they did on the same card at Belmont Park, in a race that was split into two divisions because of the number of entries.

Inside Information won one division by 7 1/2 lengths, and Heavenly Prize won the other by nine.

They wouldn’t see each other in a race until two years later, but were reunited Friday, when Heavenly Prize was inducted into the National Racing Museum Hall of Fame.

Her long-time stablemate, owned by Ogden Mills “Dinny” Phipps, was inducted to the Hall in 2008, and Heavenly Prize, owned by Phipps’ father Ogden Phipps, entered the Hall as the only inductee in the contemporary category for the class of 2018.

McGaughey, inducted to the Hall in 2004, accepted Heavenly Prize’s plaque on behalf off the Phipps family.

“We were obviously very encouraged by the respective performances [in the 1993 maiden races], but I don’t think anyone at that time could’ve predicted that they would both end up in the Racing Hall of Fame,” McGaughey said.

In 18 career races that included eight Grade I victories, Heavenly Prize showed a fondness for Saratoga Race Course. McGaughey engineered parallel careers for Heavenly Prize and Inside Information by keeping Inside Information in races at shorter distances.

After finishing third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies in her third start in 1993, Heavenly Prize won the 3-year-old filly Eclipse Award in 1994 off a string of three straight Grade I wins that began with the Alabama at Saratoga. That streak ended when she was second by a neck to One Dreamer in the BC Distaff while ridden by Mike Smith.

“I was worried [in the BC Juvenile Fillies], because she’d never run around two turns at that point,” McGaughey said. “I told Mike Smith, ‘Use the rail, make it your friend.’ I didn’t want her to get drifting out on the turn. She was a little green.

“On the turn for home, with Mike Smith in the saddle, a hole opened up on the rail, but she hesitated for a second. With Eddie Delahoussaye and Laffit Pincay riding in a million-dollar race, I assure you that hole closed quickly. She finished third.”

Heavenly Prize was a Grade I winner in three straight seasons, including the Go For Wand and John A. Morris at Saratoga as a 4-year-old.

The penultimate race of her career was a 13 1/2-length loss to Inside Information in the 1995 BC Distaff, Inside Information’s final race.

“ I still remember Mr. Phipps’ comment after the race, as he looked at me from his box, and said, ‘The wrong horse won,’” McGaughey said. “I’m quite sure he was kidding, because he had a smile on his face when he said it. Heavenly Prize brought us a lot of joy throughout her career.”

The class of 2018 included 12 inductees in the Pillars of the Turf category, and the racehorse Preakness and trainer William Lakeland from the Historical Review Committee.

The Pillars of the Turf group was comprised of Elias J. “Lucky” Baldwin, August Belmont I, Cot Campbell, Penny Chenery, John W. Galbreath, Arthur B. Hancock, Sr., Hal Price Headley, John Morrissey, Dr. Charles H. Strub, Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney, Harry Payne Whitney and William Collins Whitney.

Accepting for Chenery, best known for having owned Secretariat, but also the first woman member of The Jockey Club and one of the founders of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, was her daughter, Kate Chenery Tweedy.

“Mom would have been thrilled to join these other Pillars of the Turf, especially joining the number of eminent people here, racetrack founders, industry innovators and breeders,” she said. “This was a group she really would’ve loved and felt at home with.

“The excitement and thrill of racing is what led her to embrace fans and try to bring them into the sport as much as possible.”

During his short speech, the 90-year-old Campbell, founder of Dogwood Stable and a pioneer in the partnership form of racehorse ownership, pointed out that, of the 12 Pillars of the Turf of 2018, he’s the only one who is still alive.

“That may not be interesting to you, but it is to me,” he said, to laughter from the gallery at the Fasig-Tipton pavilion. “I’m probably the only person in this room -- maybe in this town -- who saw Man o’ War. I would like to thank Man o’ War, because he lit the fuse for me to pursue an absolutely wonderful life. I’m the poster boy for the slogan ‘Energy and enthusiasm can overcome stupidity and bad judgment.’”

National Racing Museum and Hall of Fame president John Hendrickson announced that there are plans for a two-year project that will add an interactive theater to the museum and hall of fame.

He said he and wife Marylou Whitney had already pledged $1 million toward the $20 million cost of the theater.

Reach Gazette Sportswriter Mike MacAdam at 518-395-3146 or [email protected]. Follow on Twitter @Mike_MacAdam.

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