Claude R. McGaughey, III is his name. To his legion of his friends and fans around the race track he is simply known as “Shug.”
The Hall of Fame trainer added another milestone to an all-star career when he sent out Fly So High for his lifelong clients, the Phipps Family Stable, to win Gulfstream Park's $200,000 guaranteed, Grade 2 Davona Dale Stakes Saturday afternoon.
When the 3-year-old filly crossed the finish line a 3-length winner, she earned 50 qualifying points for the May 4 running of Churchill Downs', Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks and she became her trainer's 2,000th lifetime winner in a career that began in 1979, the same year Davona Dale won racing's Triple Tiara for fillies and was named the Eclipse Award winner for 3-year-old fillies.
McGaughey's big break came in 1986 when Ogden Phipps hired him to train his stable of classically-bred horses. Along the way, although his list of champions shows both sexes and all ages, he became known as the trainer of award winning fillies. McGaughey trained females that captured four runnings each of the Spinster, Alabama, Beldame and Bonnie Miss Stakes.
The 67-year-old McGaughey scored a very difficult triple by training Personal Ensign to win the Breeders' Cup Distaff. He had a double when her daughter, My Flag won the race and notched the triple when her daughter, Star Flag Flying, also won.
He joined the list of Kentucky Derby winners when Orb galloped home in 2013. He also owns the trainer's trophy that came with Easy Goer's win in the 1989 Belmont Stakes.
Fly So High is one of the few fillies the Phipps Family did not breed. The daughter of Malibu Moon from the Quiet American mare Quiet Flight was purchased out of the 2016 Keeneland September Sale for $675,000.
After finishing third in her first asking, the bay filly broke her maiden at Aqueduct in November and then won an allowance at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 4.
She became a stakes winner when her regular rider, Eclipse Award winner Jose Ortiz, kept her just off the pace set by the eventual runner up, Take Charge Paula, early on in the Davona Dale. Ortiz kept his patience intact when Alter Moon took the lead passing the half mile pole.
He sent Fly So High after the leaders around the far turn. She widened out to a 3-length win at the wire at odds of 7 to 5. Take Charge Paula and Paco Lopez were second with Heavenhadmynikki and Irad Ortiz, Jr. another three parts of a length back in third. The Longines teletimer stopped in 1:38.69 after the mile trip out of the chute around one turn on a fast track.
The win for Fly So High gives her a record of three wins from four starts. The Gulfstream check boosts her earnings to $190,180 for the Phipps Family.
Post race press conferences were not on McGaughey's agenda. Shortly after Fly So High crossed the finish line, Ortiz aborted her gallop out and pulled her up before entering the club house turn. The rider said “She just felt a little funny.”
Before the running of the Mac Diarmida Stakes, Caton Bredar told her TVG audience McGaughey reported to her Fly So High “cooled out just fine.” The trainer felt Ortiz' quick pullup was “precautionary.”
New York-based jockeys and trainers dominated the 14-race afternoon and finished with The featured Fountain of Youth, a prep for the Florida Derby, being run as the sun was setting over the Florida mainland.
Irad Ortiz, Jr., Jose's older brother, won the third race with Amace, the 4th with Holy Helena for trainer Jimmy Jerkens and the Grade 3 Canadian Turf with Hogy for Michael Maker.
In addition to his win with Fly So High and Promises Fulfilled, Jose Ortiz took the honors with The Way I Am for trainer Graham Motion and a maiden special with Hoffburg for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott.
Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez scored a riding double when he won the Sand Springs Stakes with Team of Teams for Jimmy Jerkens and the Palm Beach Stakes with Maraud with for mega trainer Todd Pletcher.
At the Big A...
After bouncing off the starting gate and being bumped by rival Gypsy Jane, Dr. William B. Wilmot and Dr. Joan M. Taylor's home bred Midnight Disguise stormed down the stretch, made the lead 70 yards out and came away a 1-1/4-length winner in Aqueduct's $200,000 Busher Stakes.
The 50 points the 3-year-old filly earned virtually assured the New York-bred daughter of Midnight Lute from the Yes Its True mare Thin Disguise a trip to the May 4 running of Churchill Downs', Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks. A win earlier in the Big A's Busanda Stakes earned her ten points for a total of 60.
After recovering from a fifth place start in the six-filly race, jockey Trevor McCarthy started his advance from 5/16 out. When the field straightened away for the run for home, McCarthy went five wide to score the win over Sara Street and Dylan Davis who earned 20 Oaks points. My Miss Lilly and Manny Franco took third money and 10 points.
Midnight Disguise was clocked in 1:39.15 for the one mile, one turn race over a fast surface. She has now earned $257,600 for her owner-breeders.
Although a trip to the Oaks would be a first for the filly's New York-based trainer Linda Race, the next item on the Midnight Disguise agenda will be the mile and a furlong Gazelle on the Wood Memorial under card on April 7.
“We're pointing for the Gazelle,” the trainer said. “That would be the natural stepping stone to
Promises Fulfilled Wins Fountain Of Youth Stakes
Promises Fulfilled, racing for Robert Baron and trainer Dale Romans, made every call a winning one when he came out of the outside Number 10 stall, crossed over the field and settled on the front end of the $400,000, Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes, Gulfstream's primary prep for the March 31 $1 million, Grade 1 Florida Derby.
After repelling challenges from Strike Power, the eventual runner-up and 2-year-old Eclipse champion and Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Good Magic, Promises Filled and his Eclipse Award winning jockey Jose Ortiz, galloped home with his fourth lifetime win from five starts and his first in stakes company.
Doing it all on his own, the son of Shackleford from the Marquetry mare Marquee Delivery held his challengers at bay until Ortiz asked him for more in the stretch and went on to win by 2-1/4 lengths at odds of 18 to 1.
After the race, Ortiz said Romans “Told me to go to the lead. That's what I did. He was right.” When asked if he had any concerns during the race, the rider said, “When he changed leads, he jumped right into the bit.”
Romans allowed, “I'm always nervous about one making his first start of the year.” And, he said, “With the outside box, I told him to push the gas and go.”
The trainer acted as buyer's agent for owner Baron when he took Promises Fulfilled out of the Keeneland 2016 September sale for a bargain $37,000. Romans explained, “His daddy was good to me.”
The “Daddy” (Shackleford) was the winner of the 2011 Preakness and a handful of other major stakes.
When asked for his future plans, Romans was quick to say, “He likes this track. We might as well come back for the Florida Derby...” where he is sure to get bet down to odds at lot shorter than 18 to 1.
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