Ogden Phipps — From Racing to Tennis and Back Again

Ogden Phipps reportedly once offered Penny Chenery $6 million to purchase the great Secretariat. (Photo credit: Flicker).

Ask anyone with a passing interest in racing who Ogden Phipps was and they’re sure to regale you with stories of his prowess as a breeder of some of the country’s (if not the world’s) finest racehorses. And while others will mention his philanthropy and perhaps his foray into the world of stocks and bonds, it’s almost forgotten that Phipps was, in fact, a champion tennis player. He’s a legend.

Born into a household that was entrenched in horseracing, it’s little wonder that Phipps’ first love was always the thoroughbreds. His relatives owned Wheatley Stable and were responsible for producing some of the day’s most successful horses. But at Harvard, Ogden got bitten by the tennis bug and became so good at it that he played amateur U.S. court (or what they call real) tennis like a true pro.

Around 1945, Ogden started his run of incredible court tennis success and took up where he left off when the conflict ended. In total, he won the men’s singles championship seven times and was part of the winning doubles team on ten occasions. This was an amazing achievement, but he wasn’t done there. He was also crowned the British Amateur Real Tennis champion in 1949, cementing his status as a worldwide phenomenon. In 2001, he got his due recognition as he was inducted into the International Court Tennis Hall of Fame.

As an inductee into the International Court Tennis Hall of Fame and a seven-time U.S. court tennis champion, we can only imagine how he would fare against today’s players. Of course, tennis was a different game back in Ogden’s day, but we reckon if BetStars can give Jack Sock 80/1 then surely, they’d give a former court champion 20/1, or are we just a little too biased?

But it wasn’t just tennis that Ogden excelled at, and no, we’re not talking about his skills with the horses. Phipps was also pretty good on the squash court. No, that’s an understatement of massive proportions. He was the national champion from 1933 to 1937 and then again in 1939, 1948, and once more in 1949. And all of this at the same time while he was tearing it up on the tennis courts.

The man was a truly gifted athlete and obviously had the determination by the bucket load. To be a champion in two sports simultaneously on either side of a world conflict that he himself fought in is no small feat.

But what’s even more impressive is that he still found time to race champion horses and help various charitable causes. If ever there was a true American sporting icon, then Ogden Phipps was one. Of course, there are those that will argue that he had the best start in life, but how many people born into Ogden’s life would have pushed themselves so hard to achieve success in their own right rather on the back of their relatives.

As a horse owner and breeder, he won countless races and in 1988, he won the Eclipse Award as the leading owner and breeder of the year. We all know and love the man that brought so much to horse racing, but it’s something of a fairytale to realize that he did the same for both court tennis and squash. Will we ever see someone like him again? Probably not, which is why we should celebrate this man not just for his achievements at the track, but as one of American sports’ most complete athletes.


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