Year Inducted: 2011
The life of a horse trainer normally requires plenty of travel and Chuck Taliaferro lived a full life of winning and traveling throughout the USA during his entire career.
It all started in Oklahoma in 1933, when Taliaferro was born on a ranch in Stephens County near Comanche. There he learned the cowboy lifestyle and developed a deep understanding of horses. An outstanding bronc rider, he travelled from coast to coast competing in rodeos. He eventually found his way to California where he worked as a stable hand for Frank Vessels, Sr., the founder of Los Alamitos Race Course, and his trainer, the legendary Farrell Jones.
Taliaferro earned his first trainer’s license in 1955 and soon became one of the leading trainers of running Quarter Horses in the country. In the mid-1960s he developed the great Go Josie Go into the World Champion runner. Before long, his skill with sprinters caught the attention of leading Thoroughbred owners and Taliaferro moved his operation, training in Chicago, Kentucky, Ohio and New York.
Taliaferro enjoyed success wherever he saddled horses and he also became known as a mentor for young talented jockeys. In the 1970s, Taliaferro took a young boy from northern Kentucky under his wing. A teenage Steve Cauthen was groomed by Taliaferro and he quickly utilized the lessons he learned, winning the Triple Crown aboard Affirmed in 1978, just two years after starting his career.
Taliaferro was also credited with helping Cash Asmussen get his start before he became a European racing star. Future National Hall of Fame rider Gary Stevens would also come up under Taliaferro when he was based in southern California in the early 1980s.
After years in Kentucky, New York and California, Taliaferro eventually traveled to the new Canterbury Downs in the mid-1980s where he competed with both Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses. Finally, ground was broken for a new racetrack in Oklahoma City. Remington Park would open in the fall of 1988, about an hour and a half from where he grew up. Taliaferro had the opportunity to move home to his native state, to race at its marquee track.
Taliaferro had many clients in Remington Park’s infant years and trained for the powerful Lazy E Ranch operation out of Guthrie. He finished ninth in the standings during the inaugural season in 1988 but quickly improved on that placing. In the fall of 1989, Taliaferro won the first of back-to-back season titles by saddling 27 winners. The victories included stakes triumphs with No More Hard Times, Spunky Rascal and Sweet Diva. All three were voted divisional champions for the meeting.
The 1990 Spring Season was even better for Taliaferro as he clinched another Remington Park crown with 44 wins and the biggest race the track offered. The second Remington Park Derby (now known as the Oklahoma Derby) in 1990 was won by Wicked Destiny. Taliaferro sent the colt out under John Lively who immediately took the lead in the 1-1/16 miles race and never looked back. Wicked Destiny opened a wide advantage coming off the final turn and held on to win by 1-1/2 lengths over Seasabb. Taliaferro also trained the third and fourth-place finishers in the race with Penthouse E and Spunky Rascal putting forth a solid showing for the stable.
Taliaferro continued to have success over the next four years at Remington Park, especially with the versatile No More Hard Times who became one of the first fan favorites in Oklahoma City by winning six stakes races overall here.
Taliaferro would win all the way to the end. After battling cancer for an extended period, he passed on Feb. 23, 1994. The final horse entered under the Taliaferro name would win as Bionic Pac Man gave the venerable trainer his final victory and a Remington Park total of 202 wins in just over five years. Since his death, the leading trainer award at Remington Park has been named in his honor.