On Thursday, April 8, Personal Ensign, winner of the 1988 Breeders' Cup Distaff (G1) and undefeated in her 13 starts, died of natural causes at Claiborne Farm in Paris, KY at the age of 26. The daughter of Private Account-Grecian Banner, raced for her breeder, the late Ogden Phipps, and was trained by Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey.
McGaughey said, "She was a wonderful filly who overcame injury to win 13 straight races. Obviously she was very talented and she had a big will to win. She certainly was one of my all-time favorites. She was a career-maker."
Of her 13 starts, 8 were Grade 1 stakes events, including two consecutive runnings of the Beldame at Belmont Park, as well as the Whitney Handicap at Saratoga in her only start against males. Personal Ensign's racing career was highlighted by, and ended with, a dramatic come-from-behind victory over Kentucky Derby winner Winning Colors by a nose in the 1988 Breeders' Cup Distaff at Churchill Downs. The race is often cited as one of the most exciting races in racing history. After that race she retired having earned $1,679,880 on the track.
"Personal Ensign was the first Breeders' Cup winner for my grandfather and for Shug and she was just a very special horse to everyone in our family," said Daisy Phipps Pulito. "After her racing career ended, she was a big part of our broodmare operation. It's a very sad day for all of us."
As a broodmare at Claiborne, she produced three Grade 1 stakes winners from 11 foals. Her first foal, Miner's Mark, won 6 of 18 races, including The Jockey Club Gold Cup in 1993. Her fourth foal, My Flag, tallied four Grade 1 wins during her career. My Flag went on to produce another champion, Storm Flag Flying. Personal Ensign also produced Our Emblem, sire of 2002 Kentucky Derby winner War Emblem. She was pensioned at the age of 22, her final foal being a 2006 colt by Forest Wildcat.
Personal Ensign was inducted into racing's Hall of Fame in 1993, her first year of eligibility, and was broodmare of the year in 1996. She was buried at the Marchmont Cemetery at Claiborne, where the Phipps family's Easy Goer, Private Account, Numbered Account, and Relaxing are also buried.
For a more detailed history of Personal Ensign's racing career check this story by Ron Hale
Personal Ensign's lifetime past performances, courtesy of Equibase, here.
Personal Ensign's pedigree and offspring from Pedigree Online