Horse Racing

After Wasp’s attack, Fipke is grateful to be alive

For Chuck Fipke, Saturday could have gone better. His Lady Speightspeare (Sightstown) finished fourth at the GI Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational S. and with a better ride could have been closer.

“That’s the way of horse racing,” said the owner and the rancher. “I am a bit disappointed. Every time you do well in this sport, you are 50 times disappointed.”

Not that Fipke is complaining. With him nearly dying just 15 days before the race, it was easy to keep things in perspective.

On January 13, Fipke was in Costa Rica photographing birds. He forgot to bring his glasses and had trouble seeing. That causes him to get lost and he takes a wrong turn and finds himself in the jungle. It was there that he was attacked by a swarm of wasps.

He said: “I was going through the jungle when I bumped into a swarm of wasps. “They literally flooded my whole body. I have been bitten more than 2,000 times.”

From there, it was just a matter of whether he lived or not. Fipke said he was unconscious after the attack but he woke up in time to call and was found by a young Costa Rican. With assistance, he was loaded onto a police four-wheeler and then transported to a small satellite hospital.

“I wasn’t very well but they took me from the satellite hospital to a really good local hospital with really good doctors,” he said.

He’s come this far, but there’s no guarantee he’ll make it.

“The doctor there didn’t think I would survive,” Fipke said. “He said he had never heard of anyone who had survived an attack like this. There are 400 different types of wasps, but these are the really bad ones. I don’t think I will make it. My fiance didn’t think I would make it and neither did the doctor. When you have good horses like me, you really don’t want to die. On the one hand, I was very unlucky when this happened to me. On the other hand, I lived. So I was lucky.

Worse still, some wasps got inside his eardrums, threatening his hearing. Fipke underwent a successful surgery to remove the wasp from his ear and his hearing was saved.

Over time, and although he says the itching was unbearable, Fipke began to improve. On January 20, he returned to a hospital in his hometown of British Columbia, Canada and was discharged a few days later. He said he is now about 70 percent recovered. But he never thought about traveling to Gulfstream.

“There’s no way I could travel,” Fipke said. “It wasn’t until the last few days that I started to improve and then I improved quite a bit.”

A wasp attack isn’t the first time Fipke has fallen seriously ill. He said he had previously had a case of cerebral malaria, which is also a life-threatening disease.

“I shouldn’t have survived the cerebral malaria, but I did,” says Fipke. “I have used up two of my nine lives. Seven hours to go.”

Lady Speightspeare has been one of the top runners in the Fipke warehouse for the past few years. She won the GI Natalma S. in 2020, the same year she was named the Canadian chubby 2-year-old champion. In what could be the best race of her career, she finished third in this year’s GI Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf. As a five-time bet winner, she made $457,420.

Pegasus was her last race and now she will be bred as gunman. It will be some time before that pony enters the races, but Fipke should be around to keep an eye on its career. He’s a lucky guy.


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