Karen and Mickey Taylor

Karen and Mickey Taylor

(Inducted 2011)

Mickey and Karen Taylor were first noted on the Thoroughbred racing scene when the young White Swan couple was sighted at the 1973 WTBOA Summer Yearling Sale where they purchased a Cold Command filly out stakes winner Mrs. Wong for $5,000. The filly, Felicity Trueblood, would never make it to the races.

Karen Pearson and Mickey Taylor had been high school sweethearts. She became a flight attendant for Northwest Orient Airlines while Mickey, a fourth generation lumberman, started his own lumber business in 1972. Later, as the price of lumber soared, Mickey promised Karen a racehorse for their third wedding anniversary.

In the fall of 1973 the Taylors ventured to the East Coast to look at horses and Karen fell in love with a six-year-old stakes-winning Blue Prince gelding named Triangular, who they purchased privately from Hobeau Farm and sent to trainer Jim Penney’s barn in Southern California. Triangular won his first start for the couple in December and added two more victories in his first four outings for them. Among those wins was a five-length victory in the Grade 3 San Marcos Handicap at Santa Anita on January 27, 1974. The runner raced under Pearson’s Barn Inc. and their silks featured a logging truck.

In June of the following year the Taylors privately purchased a well-bred four-year-old daughter of Tom Rolfe named Mama Kali from William H. Perry. She earned her first stakes victory for the Washington couple in the 1975 Osunitas Stakes. Mama Kali later added two Rancho Bernardo Stakes wins and also took the $50,000 California Jockey Club Stakes.

By this time the Taylors had been in racing for three full seasons and had raced five stakes winners. While Triangular, Mama Kali, Palladium and Lexington Laugh were all nice horses, it was their fifth stakes winner that would put them on the map.

While looking at yearlings at the 1975 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July Yearling Sale, offspring of first crop sire Bold Reasoning caught their attention. The Taylors ended up buying four yearlings at the sale, two by Bold Reasoning. One was a colt who was the first foal from Fair Ground Oaks winner My Charmer, a daughter of the talented, but slightly psychotic Poker. Later named Seattle Slew, the $17,500 purchase would go down in racing annals as one of the best racehorses and sires of all time.

Unbeaten in three starts at two, Seattle Slew, who raced that season in Karen’s name alone, even though he was owned by a partnership of the Taylors and veterinarian Jim Hill and his wife Sally, was honored as the champion two-year-old colt of his crop. The late Dr. Bob Penney had first introduced the Taylors and the Hills.

The following year the Cinderella story would explode into a world-wide bestseller, as the rough and ready colt added “Slewmania” to the lexicon after becoming the first unbeaten Triple Crown winner in history.

After finishing a tired fourth in the Swaps Stakes (G1), the only time the great colt finished worse than second in 17 starts, the “Slew Crew” brought their champion to Washington where his two-day “Golden Gallop” at Longacres raised funds which were equally divided between the University of Washington’s cancer research program and equine research at Washington State University’s School of Veterinary Medicine.

The easy choice, Slew earned his second Eclipse Award as champion three-year-old and topped that with Horse of the Year honors.

Slew would thrill fans with seven more starts at four, of which he would win five and finish only a nose or a neck behind the winner in the other two. He would earn his third champion title and retire with earnings of $1,208,726.

The dark bay powerhouse became one of the few horses that could simply do it all, both as a racehorse and sire. The Taylors and Hills, along with Karen’s father and brother, formed Seminole Syndicate to purchase top mares for their new stallion. In his 24 crops, he would sire 114 stakes winners among his 1,016 foals (11.2 percent), including the great A. P. Indy and seven other champions. He was American’s leading sire in 1984 and its leading damsire in 1995 and 1996, with his daughters so far producing over 200 stakes winners.

In 1984, the Taylors and Hills established the Seattle Slew Foundation, which sold a Slew season each year to benefit organizations such as the Kentucky Derby Museum, Maxwell Gluck Equine Center and the Kentucky Equine Institute.

The Taylors raced many top offspring of their once-in-a-lifetime horse, including two-time champion Slew o’ Gold and Grade 1 winner Slewpy – who was raced by the Taylors and Hills under Equusequity Stable. The Taylors have also bred and raced many successful runners with their longtime partner, actor Albert Finney. More recently they campaigned 2004 Cup and Saucer Stakes winner Slew’s Saga, who now stands at Oakhurst Thoroughbreds in Oregon, and whose first crop is headed by 2011 Barbara Shinpoch winner Sweet Saga.

During Seattle Slew’s years at stud, Karen and Mickey spent much of their time in Kentucky, especially in the months leading up to Slew’s death on May 7, 2002, 25 years to the day after his victory in the Kentucky Derby.

The couple’s main residence is now in Sun Valley, Idaho, but each year they graciously return to Emerald Downs to honor the winner of the Seattle Slew Handicap.