Ogden Phipps, the financier and sportsman who became the pillar of horse racing in New York in the middle years of the 20th century, died yesterday at a hospital in West Palm Beach, Fla. He was 93.
Mr. Phipps was the central figure in a family dynasty built on steel, investment banking and the breeding and racing of horses. He was the grandson of Henry Phipps, the partner of the steel magnate Andrew Carnegie; the son of Henry Carnegie Phipps and Gladys Livingston Mills Phipps (his mother owned the Wheatley Stable); and the father of Ogden Mills Phipps, known as Dinny, who succeeded him as chairman of the Jockey Club and master of the Phipps racing stable.
In the investment banking business, he rose to become a partner in Smith Barney, and from 1958 to 1978 he was chairman of the Bessemer Trust Company, the private bank that held the family fortune.
In the horse racing business, he became pre-eminent as the owner of numerous national champions, including Buckpasser, Personal Ensign, Easy Goer and Bold Ruler, the sire of Secretariat. As chairman of the Jockey Club for 10 years, he was the chief guardian of America's racing rules and bloodlines.
He was raised into a family of wealth and into the elegant life that ruled society early in the century. His grandfather used to lease an entire railway train to carry members of the family, their servants and pets to Palm Beach for the winter and back to Long Island in the spring. The family once owned 28 miles of Florida coastline between Miami and Palm Beach, as well as large tracts along Biscayne Boulevard and much of the city of Palm Beach itself. And several times the Phipps family was reported to have made large loans to the City of Miami during the Depression.
Yet on the toss of a coin, the family once lost the chance to become the owner of the greatest racehorse of his time. It was a sporting toss: Helen Tweedy was the owner of the mare Somethingroyal; Mrs. Phipps and her son, Ogden, owned the stallion Bold Ruler. They flipped a coin to see who would get the first foal of the mating. The first foal, who went to the Phippses, was a forgettable filly. The second, who went to Mrs. Tweedy, was a colt: Secretariat.
But the Phipps family was rarely short of horses that could run and win, nor of trainers who would make certain that they did, from Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons to Bill Winfrey to Shug McGaughey. And they reached peaks of performance, as they did in 1988, when they had 35 winners from 87 starts and earned $5.8 million in purses.
When the Eclipse Awards were voted that year, five of racing's highest honors went to members of the Phipps entourage: Easy Goer was named the nation's best 2-year-old colt; Personal Ensign, who finished her career undefeated, the outstanding filly or mare; McGaughey the top trainer; and Mr. Phipps both the outstanding owner and the outstanding breeder.
Most of the family's racing operations were directed from Barn 20 at Belmont Park, where the famous Phipps colors flew high: black with a cherry-red cap. But the family had been a powerful element in racing in North America and Europe for many years.
The family fortune resulted from the boyhood friendship in what is now Pittsburgh between Andrew Carnegie, the son of a Scottish immigrant weaver, and Henry Phipps, the son of a Scottish immigrant cobbler.
When the boys were in their 20's, Carnegie bought a piece of the Kloman steel forge and gave Henry Phipps half-interest for $800 and bookkeeping work. In time, the company became Carnegie Steel and then United States Steel, and when they sold the company to J. P. Morgan in 1901, Henry Phipps left with $50 million.
Henry Phipps devoted the rest of his life to philanthropy and managing the family fortune. According to his grandson, Ogden Mills Phipps, Henry Phipps created the first low-income public housing in New York City. The nonprofit Phipps Houses still owns and manages apartments in Manhattan, Queens and the Bronx, the grandson said.
The Bessemer Trust Company was founded in 1907 with the proceeds of the sale of United States Steel. For its first 68 years, Bessemer handled only the accounts of the descendants of Henry Phipps. In a 1995 study of Bessemer, The American Banker said that by 1975 the Phipps family assets in the company were worth $1 billion.
Ogden Phipps was born in New York on Nov. 26, 1908. He graduated from St. Paul's in New Hampshire and then Harvard in 1931. During World War II, he was a Navy officer, rising to the rank of commander.
He was raised in a sporting atmosphere half a century before off-track betting in New York transformed the nature of racing. His mother and father founded the Wheatley Stable and stud. His mother owned Bold Ruler, the stallion who became the dominant sire in the world for lines of racehorses distinguished for their speed.
Mr. Phipps excelled at golfing, boating and tennis and won the United States tennis championship seven times in the 1930's and 1940's and the British amateur title in 1949. He was inducted into the International Court Tennis Hall of Fame in 2001.
His first stakes victory as an owner came in 1936 when his homebred White Cockade won the Withers. The best thoroughbred he ever raced was probably Buckpasser, who won 25 of 31 starts and finished out of the money only once. In recent years, Mr. Phipps spent his winters living off Palm Beach on his yacht named Buckpasser.
In 1937 he married Lillian Bostwick, an equestrienne who also drove trotting horses. Her brother, Pete Bostwick, was an outstanding steeplechase jockey and polo player. Another brother, Dunbar, was her partner in owning trotters, and together they raced the legendary Noble Hanover.
Lillian Phipps died in 1987. Mr. Phipps is survived by two sons, Robert L. Phipps, of Ridgeland, S.C., and Ogden Mills Phipps, of Palm Beach; a daughter, Cynthia Phipps, of New York; seven grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; and a sister, Sonia Seherr-Thoss of Litchfield, Conn. Cynthia Phipps owns Saarland, a strong contender for the Kentucky Derby a week from Saturday.
Mr. Phipps's sentimental favorite was Personal Ensign, who won all 13 of her races. In 1988, after a seven-month layoff, she won five Grade I stakes in a row and outran the sprint champion Gulch in the Whitney. She defeated Winning Colors, the filly who had won the Kentucky Derby, in the Maskette Stakes at Belmont Park and again in an electrifying duel in the Breeders' Cup Distaff at Churchill Downs to complete her career with a perfect record.
Personal Ensign, apparently beaten in the homestretch by Winning Colors, suddenly spurted back into contention and won the duel by a short nose. It was, Mr. Phipps said later, ''a terrifying experience.''
In recounting Mr. Phipps's last years, Ogden Mills Phipps told The Associated Press yesterday: ''He loved the breeding side, the foals and the mares. He went every 10 days this winter to see his new crop of 2-year-olds. He got more excited by the breeding side the older he was.''