KY mainstay Morse having strong Oaklawn meet

An Oaklawn Park press release by Robert Yates (Taxed, trainer Randy Morse and jockey Rafael Bejarano after winning last year’s Black Eyed Susan at Pimlico. Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club photo)

Grade 2 winner Taxed returned to Oaklawn roughly a month ago and is on a tight schedule to make her major spring objective, the $1.25 million Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) April 13, trainer Randy Morse said. The 1 1/16-mile Apple Blossom is Oaklawn’s signature two-turn event for older fillies and mares.

Unraced since late September, Taxed’s schedule was interrupted last month when Oaklawn lost 11 days of training to winter weather.

“Missing all those days sure didn’t help anything,” said Morse, who winters in Arkansas while stabling the rest of the year in Kentucky at Churchill Downs. “The major goal was pointing her towards the Apple Blossom. Have one race before then, but I don’t know. It will be pretty iffy if that happens. We’ll see.”

Taxed emerged as one of the country’s better 3-year-old fillies last year after Morse, on behalf of owner Richard Bahde, claimed the daughter of Collected out of a Nov. 20, 2022, maiden victory at Churchill Downs for $50,000. 

Taxed raced four times at the 2022-2023 Oaklawn meeting, finishing second to Wet Paint in two Kentucky Oaks qualifying races, notably the $600,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) at 1 1/16 miles. Taxed then recorded her biggest career victory to date in the $300,000 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (G2) at 1 1/8 miles last May at Pimlico.

Taxed is among 37 horses at Oaklawn for Morse, its 13th-winningest trainer in history with 321 victories. Morse is off to a strong start at the 2023-2024 meeting, with a 7-7-3 record from 39 starts and purse earnings of $727,115.

In addition to a solid group of open horses, Morse has 12 Arkansas-breds and continues to tap into its rich program (purses/breeder awards) through Cedar Run Farm, a foaling and layup facility just west of Hot Springs that Randy Patterson and daughter Sara began developing about a decade ago. Randy Patterson, a longtime breeder/owner, is Morse’s business partner. Sara Patterson manages Cedar Run.

All seven of Morse’s victories this season at Oaklawn have been for Randy Patterson. Six have been in six-figure allowance or maiden special weight events. Five have been with Arkansas-breds. 

Morse and Patterson teamed to win a $115,000 state-bred maiden special weight sprint Dec. 8 with Cedar Run-bred Appealing Addie, a $121,900 state-bred maiden special weight sprint Jan. 1 with Cedar Run-bred Hess, a $143,000 state-bred allowance sprint for older females Jan. 13 with Kantex and a $143,000 state-bred allowance sprint for older females last Sunday with Connie K.

Patterson and Morse are co-breeders/owners of Kantex and Connie K. Both are daughters of Street Strategy, the 2016 Oaklawn stakes winner ($100,000 Fifth Season) for Morse and Patterson. Patterson stands Street Strategy at nearby Lake Hamilton Equine.

Connie K ($488,695) is nearing the now-retired The Mary Rose ($539,894) as the top accredited Arkansas-bred female money winner in history. Connie K also won the $150,000 Downthedustyroad Breeders’ Stakes for state-bred female sprinters in 2022 at Oaklawn.

“Patterson and I, we started this deal – I don’t know how many years ago it’s been – thinking that the purses would get really good here,” Morse said. “Luckily, it’s turned out for once; a plan kind of came together. We’re just not trying to raise Arky-breds. We’re trying to raise good horses. His daughter does a great job. That means a lot.”

Randy Patterson and Morse have also made noise in open company.

Can’t Hush This, a Kentucky-bred Not This Time gelding, won a $140,000 one-mile allowance race for older horses Jan. 13. Blue Squall, a 3-year-old Kentucky-bred daughter of 2017 Belmont Stakes winner Tapwrit, captured a $115,000 maiden special weight sprint Jan. 26.

Patterson owns Blue Squall, the $300,000 sale topper last April at the Texas Thoroughbred Association’s 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale, with Sam Vogel and Joe Morgan.

Arkansas-bred Hush It Honey collected a $3,000 bonus for beating open company in a Dec. 31 starter/optional claiming sprint for 2-year-old fillies.

“I think we’ve proven that (win in open company),” Morse said. “You see Kantex, she runs in open company. Hush It Honey’s never even ran with Arky-breds. That’s what I mean. We’re trying to raise good horses. I think it’s showing up.”

Jennie Rees is a communications and advocacy specialist in the horse industry who spent 32 years covering horse racing for The (Louisville) Courier-Journal before taking a corporate buyout. In addition to handling communications for the Kentucky HBPA, Rees is Kentucky Downs’ publicity director, manages in-season racing publicity for Ellis Park and serves as a consultant to the National HBPA. Other projects include the Preakness Stakes, Indiana Grand’s Indiana Derby Week and work for various HBPA affiliates and horsemen’s associations.