Taxed captures the Black Eyed-Susan under Rafael Bejarano (Barbara Singer/Past The Wire)
David Joseph/Maryland Jockey Club
BALTIMORE— Richard Bahde’s Taxed, facing her toughest test yet after going winless in four previous stakes attempts, swept past previously undefeated favorite Faiza at the top of the lane and caught front-running Hoosier Philly in deep stretch to spring an 11-1 upset in Friday’s $300,000 George E. Mitchell Black-Eyed Susan (G2) at historic Pimlico Race Course.
The 99th running of the 1 1/8-mile fixture for 3-year-old fillies was the centerpiece of a sensational 14-race program featuring six stakes, three graded, worth $1 million in purses that served as a fitting prelude to Saturday’s 148th Preakness Stakes (G1), Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.
Ridden by Rafael Bejarano for Midwest-based trainer Randy Morse in the longest of her eight career races, Taxed ($24) completed the distance in 1:49.45 over a fast main track to earn her second win and first since she was claimed for $50,000 out of a maiden triumph last fall. Bejarano’s last graded victory came in the 2021 Jessamine (G2) on California Angel, while it was Morse’s first since the 2014 Stephen Foster (G1) with Moonshine Mullin.
Hoosier Philly, a daughter of Into Mischief who was an early nominee to the Triple Crown, won the Rags to Riches and Golden Rod (G2) at 2 but was the beaten favorite in her two starts at 3, the Rachel Alexandra (G2) and Fair Grounds Oaks (G2), the latter March 25. She broke sharply and quickly engaged with Merlazza to her outside before establishing a presence on the lead rounding the clubhouse turn.
Hoosier Philly went a quarter of a mile in 23.44 seconds pressed by Merlazza with Faiza racing in the clear three wide, and the order went unchanged after a half in 47.24 and six furlongs in 1:11.28. Taxed, meanwhile, had made up ground and was racing in fourth as the field rounded the far turn.
Edgar Morales and Hoosier Philly continued strongly up front once straightened for home as Merlazza dropped back and Faiza struggled to keep pace. Taxed, however, was gaining momentum and steadily closed the gap on Hoosier Philly until surging inside the eighth pole and going on to win by 3 ¾ lengths. Hoosier Philly was a decisive second, 2 ¾ lengths ahead of Faiza, and it was another 2 ½ lengths back to Balpool in fourth.
They were followed by Cats Inthe Timber, who earned an automatic berth in the Black-Eyed Susan for her victory in the April 15 Weber City Miss at Laurel Park, Towhead, Comparative and Sacred Wish. Pate, Frosty O Toole and Miracle were scratched.
Taxed wound up in the Black-Eyed Susan after failing to draw into the May 5 Kentucky Oaks (G1) as the first also-eligible. The gray or roan daughter of Collected fetched $105,000 as a 2-year-old in training last March and was winless in four starts after being claimed, including runner-up finishes in the Martha Washington and Fantasy behind Wet Paint, the beaten Oaks favorite.
Taxed’s owner, who lives in Omaha, Neb., has owned horses for 30 years. His horses run primarily in Kentucky and Arkansas.
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert was aiming for his fourth victory in the Black-Eyed Susan with Faiza, who went into the race with a perfect 5-0 record, four of those wins in graded-stakes – the 2022 Starlet (G1) and Las Virgenes (G3), Santa Ysabel (G3) and Santa Anita Oaks (G2) this year, the latter April 8. Though she had raced at three different tracks, she had never done so outside of California.
The result continued a frustrating trend for favorites in the Black-Eyed Susan. After winning five of eight years between 1998 and 2005, only one favorite has won the Black-Eyed Susan: Royal Delta in 2011.
First run in 1919 as the Pimlico Oaks, the Black-Eyed Susan was renamed in 1952 to honor the Preakness and Maryland’s state flower. Among its winners are Nellie Morse, who later became the only filly to then win the Preakness; Hall of Famers Gallorette, Twilight Tear, Davona Dale, Real Delight, Royal Delta, Serena’s Song and Silverbulletday; and divisional champions Vagrancy, But Why Not and Wistful.
$300,000 Black-Eyed Susan (G2) Quotes
Winning Trainer Randy Morse (Taxed): “That was pretty special…. I tell you. I’ve been kind of dreaming that she might run that way.”
(On the $50,000 claim last fall): “She’s a real nice-looking filly, and I’d seen her train. Just one of those deals where we got lucky – got her in a shake.”
(On removing blinkers) “She was just always pulling, too rank. Because every time she ran, she looked like she was going to win, and she just didn’t have any finish. As you see now that she’s relaxing behind horses and settling. It’s made a huge difference.”
“When they headed up the backside, I loved her spot. She was behind horses and clear. I said to myself, ‘If you can’t do it from here, you don’t have any excuse.’”
(On where this ranks among career highlights): “I won the Stephen Foster, that was a Grade 1. Even if it’s a claiming race, a win’s a win.”
“It’s hard to compete with these guys who go in and spend millions of dollars on young horses. I’m not knocking them; I’d like to be in their position. Most of my better horses have been claimed.”
Winning Owner Richard Bahde (Taxed): “We are very excited to win this race. This is our first visit to Maryland, our first visit to Pimlico, and I want to come back again as soon as possible. The next stake, I want to be here. The folks here at Pimlico have been so gracious and kind, the whole setup.
“I started out in the bull rings in Nebraska with $5,000 claimers and then I met this man (trainer Randy Morse) and he took me to a whole different level. We have had a lot of fun together.
(Biggest win?) “It just happened. This is it. I have never won a graded-stakes race before. I am multiple graded stakes-placed, but this is the first win.
“When she made her move on that turn, I knew we had it won. She loves her job, she loves to run and once she got clear to the outside, it was over. She went past that 3 horse (Hoosier Philly) like she was standing still.”
Winning Jockey Rafael Bejarano (Taxed): “I had a very good trip. I put her in the position the way that I wanted and went from there. I followed the favorite (Faiza), came to the stretch and let her out. My horse responded really good and she finished really well. She has improved a lot and was better than the last time.
(Is she better without blinkers?) “For sure. Definitely. This is the second time she has run without the blinkers, and she improved. It seems like she is more relaxed.”
Trainer Tom Amoss (Hoosier Philly, 2nd): “Edgar (Morales) rode a fabulous race on her. We were able to control the pace. Look, when he turned for home and peeked over his shoulder, I got that feeling that you can’t buy. I thought we were going to win. There were a lot of things going through my mind, and they were all positive. Until about the eighth pole. We just had one that was better than us today. I’m happy for Randy Morse. He’s a great trainer, and I’m proud that he got to win the race. I maybe had a little egg on my face, proclaiming her (Hoosier Philly) as the best I’ve trained. I think we’re on the road to proving that again.”
Jockey Edgar Morales (Hoosier Philly, 2nd): “She broke good. I wasn’t planning to be on the lead, but the 4 horse [Merlazza] bumped into me a little and she cruised to the lead. She was running comfortably so I just let her be. She tried hard. She always tries. You can’t count those last two races. The Fair Grounds was not the best for her.”
Trainer Bob Baffert (Faiza, 3rd): “She broke well and was in a good spot. When the running started, she did not have that kick that she usually has. She ran a good race; she just wasn’t good enough today. We are still trying to figure her out. (Flavien) Prat said she had the trip. She did everything right but win. It was a good test for her, this being her first time shipping. We are proud of her; at least she was right there. Those two fillies (1-2 finishers Taxed and Hoosier Philly) looked good in the paddock; I thought they would run well. We will go home with her and regroup.”
Jockey Flavien Prat (Faiza, 3rd): “No excuses.”