01/31/2012 5:15PM

Oaklawn Park: Randy Morse stable bigger and better


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – Randy Morse has trained some notable horses, such as millionaires Jonesboro and Morluc. But this year his barn is poised to become more visible than ever, and not just because the stable’s numbers have grown from 26 to 40 head. Morse has a slew of well-bred youngsters coming up, and the shift within his shed row has led him to make plans to resume racing a division at Churchill Downs for the first time in four years following the close of the Oaklawn Park meet in April.

“I’ve got a lot more young horses that could turn out to be something,” he said.

Morse, a 49-year-old native of Canutillo, Texas, is tied for fifth in the trainer standings at Oaklawn. He had an outstanding meet here a year ago, when he went 19 for 72 and finished fourth in the standings. This season, Morse has more firepower at his disposal after picking up horses for Clark Brewster, Dave Clark, and Mrs. James Winn, the latter two of which had horses stabled with the late Bob Holthus. At the same time, longtime clients Mike Langford and Randy Patterson have purchased a number of quality horses.

“Last year everything went right,” Morse said of Oaklawn. “Every time we entered one, we got in the right spot. I don’t have horses that fit the spots quite as well, but we should be fine. I have more horses for the higher-end maiden races, the maiden special weights.”

One of them is Chivazone, an unraced 3-year-old by Bernstein who Morse plans to enter for Sunday. He is owned by Patterson, who last September attended the Keeneland yearling sale and now has a number of 2-year-olds being broken that will come to Morse after Oaklawn. They are by such sires as City Zip, Johannesburg, Quiet American, and Ready’s Image.

Langford, who raced Jonesboro, a Grade 2 winner of $1.5 million, has a promising 3-year-old Indian Charlie colt named Chief Gaga, said Morse. He is a half-brother to Grade  2 winner Well Monied, and Morse is hopeful he will debut before the end of Oaklawn. Langford also recently bought Don Dulce, a 4-year-old half-brother to stakes winner Sweet Relish, and has him in training with Morse.

“He seems to be a pretty decent horse,” said Morse.

Don Dulce is being pointed for an allowance at Oaklawn on Friday, but is also nominated to the $100,000 Essex on Saturday.

Morse won the Essex a year ago with Kate’s Main Man, a Patterson-owned runner who was named the 2011 claiming horse of the year by the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association.

“He’s not far from making his first start,” said Morse, who freshened the Iowa-bred after the meet at Prairie Meadows. “He’s a couple of breezes away.”

Other runners of note in Morse’s barn include Truly Inspired, who won a $5,000 starter allowance sprint here last month with a Beyer Figure of 96. The stable is also home to a Winn-owned 3-year-old filly by Medaglia d’Oro out of Mama’s Pro, a multiple stakes winner of $435,802.

Holthus, who died in November, trained Mama’s Pro for Winn. Some of Morse’s horses are now stabled in Holthus’s old barn, and as a tribute to the late trainer Morse has kept the large, red and white awning that reads “Holthus Racing Stable.”

“It keeps his name out there,” Morse said. “Somebody asked me if I was going to take it down and I said, ‘Absolutely not!’ Bob Holthus was Oaklawn Park. You said Oaklawn, and Bob Holthus was the first name that came to mind. I think he was in that barn for 40 years.”

Morse, who began training in 1981, is the son of trainer Charlie Morse. Other top horses he has had include Testify and Prospector’s Song.

Viar dead at 86

Charles O. Viar, who was Holthus’s first client as a trainer, died last Thursday at the age of 86. Services were held for him in Halls, Tenn., on Saturday. Viar was a farmer and a World War II veteran. He raced on a regular basis at Oaklawn, as well as in Kentucky and Illinois. Among his best horses were stakes winners Washington County, Bay Phantom, Gypsy Ben, and Testify.

Ha Ha Tonka retired

Ha Ha Tonka, winner of the $60,000 Prairie Rose at Prairie Meadows last May, has been retired and is being sent to Kentucky to be bred, said her trainer, Dan Peitz. Ha Ha Tonka ran second in last year’s $100,000 Saylorville, also at Prairie, and won a third-level allowance at Saratoga. She was retired due to a “recurrence of a soft tissue injury,” said Peitz. The daughter of Distorted Humor, who won her maiden on April Fools’ Day last season at Oaklawn, raced for Robert and Lowana Low.