Bull's Eye!

I’m sure many people are familiar with the story of Holy Bull and Jimmy Croll, but in keeping with the current historical theme I will tell it again for those who are not familiar with it and those who only know parts of it. It’s another one of those racing stories you can’t make up.

First off, we must begin with Holy Bull’s impact on the Sport of Kings. To his multitude of fans he was known simply as “The Bull,” and in 1994, Thoroughbred racing was the proverbial china shop. The Bull ran roughshod over any foe who dared to stand in his path. By the end of the year he had created more havoc than any bovine since Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow.

Holy Bull metaphors, like the feeble one above, became commonplace in newspapers and trade journals and he was a headline writer’s dream. The images people had of the horse were depicted on gray T-shirts designed by Daily Racing Form caricaturist Peb, which showed a raging, snorting bull with a paradoxical halo above his head. His name conjured up heavenly images, but on the racetrack he was hell on wheels. By early 1995, in addition to the T-shirts, there were Holy Bull caps and trading cards, an influx of fan mail, and several public appearances. People came from as far away as Alaska to see him.

The story of Holy Bull began some 20 years before he was even born. Trainer Warren A. “Jimmy” Croll, a veteran on the New Jersey circuit, had made only one journey on the Kentucky Derby trail, with A.I. “Butch” Savin's Royal and Regal in 1973. Two years earlier, Savin had sent Croll to the Keeneland July yearling sale with the specific purpose of finding a horse who had the potential to become a top-class stallion. After checking out a number of yearlings, Croll called Savin and told him he had found the horse he was looking for. Determined to buy him, Croll went to $220,000 for the son of Raise a Native out of Gold Digger, whom Savin named Mr. Prospector.

Around that time, Croll, who was stabled in Florida for the winter, was approached by Everett House, the live-in companion of Croll’s longtime client Rachel Carpenter. House informed Croll that Carpenter had re-written her will. “Jimmy, I want you to know that if anything happens to the two of us, all the horses belong to you,” he said.

Croll always thought of the spunky Mrs. Carpenter as the type of person who would live forever, so he never gave it a second thought.

In 1992, Croll’s son and assistant, Bill, went down to Bonnie Heath Farm in Ocala, Fla., to look at the yearlings. Croll wasn’t able to get down there that year, so he sent Bill instead. Bill watched the yearlings parade and gallop through the stretch, one of whom was a colt that Croll owned, so the farm pushed him in a big way. They had videotaped all the gallops, and when they told Bill his father’s horse was a pretty nice colt, he could be heard saying on the video, “You're out of your mind. What about the gray horse? He's the best one you’ve got. He's a standout."

House died in the early ‘90s, which deeply affected Carpenter. Each year, she would make it a point to go to Monmouth Park to visit with friends and family and see her horses. In 1993, she went to Croll’s barn on the last day of her visit. One of the horses he showed her was a homebred colt by Great Above out of the Al Hattab mare Sharon Brown, whom she had named Holy Bull. This was the colt who had impressed Bill the year before. “You know, this gray colt could be something special," Croll told her.

Carpenter had been ill when she visited Croll's barn that summer in ‘93, and two weeks later, on Aug. 14, she died in her sleep. Croll received the news later that morning from House's daughter, Even Tehan, who was Carpenter's secretary. Ironically, Croll had entered Holy Bull for his career debut that afternoon. He assured Tehan he would scratch the horse. “Oh no, don't scratch him,” she said. “She wouldn't want you to do that.”

So, Croll ran Holy Bull, who won easily by 2 1/2 lengths in a sharp 1:03 4/5. Three days later, Croll received a call from Carpenter's lawyer, who said, “Jimmy, I just want to tell you that when that horse won the other day he belonged to you. At first Croll had no idea what he was talking about, but then he remembered what House had told him 20 years earlier. Croll had felt that over that long a period of time Carpenter could have easily changed her will numerous times. But she hadn’t, so Croll, at age 74, became the owner of one of the most exciting young prospects he’d ever trained.

Croll, of course, had no way of knowing the gift he had just unwrapped was actually Aladdin's lamp in the form of a big, battleship gray colt. By the end of the following year, the genie had granted two wishes: Holy Bull was Horse of the Year and Croll was the latest inductee into the Hall of Fame. Seven years later, a third wish was granted when Holy Bull joined his trainer in racing's pantheon. But the genie wasn’t finished. In 2005, Croll watched Holy Bull’s son, Giacomo, do what his sire was unable to – win the Kentucky Derby.

Holy Bull’s career was extraordinary. Following his debut victory, he won 12 of his next 14 starts, with six of them coming in grade I stakes and three in grade II stakes. His only two losses came in the Fountain of Youth Stakes, in which he displaced his palate and lost his air, and the Kentucky Derby, when he turned in an uncharacteristically lifeless performance that Croll said he could explain, but “can't talk about.” Years later he began talking about it more and more. Until the day he died this past spring at age 88, Croll was convinced that Holy Bull was gotten to before the Derby. Many at the time commented how listless he seemed leading up to the race.

By the end of 1994, Holy Bull had done it all. He demonstrated extraordinary brilliance against older horses, easily winning the Met Mile and Woodward Stakes in blistering times. He annihilated 3-year-olds in the Blue Grass Stakes, Florida Derby, and Dwyer Stakes. He displayed the courage of a champion in the Travers Stakes, digging in and holding off the furious late charge of eventual Breeders' Cup Classic winner Concern, despite the presence of a rabbit to soften him up and a brutal three-quarters in 1:10 2/5. He showed the will to win by coming again to defeat the swift Patton in the Hutcheson Stakes. And he demonstrated his ability to concede weight to top-class horses by defeating graded stakes winners Meadow Flight and Concern in the Haskell Invitational Handicap, giving them eight pounds.

Of the horses he defeated in 1994, Devil His Due, Colonial Affair, Cherokee Run, Concern, Go for Gin, and Tinners Way all came back to win grade I stakes, while Tabasco Cat, Bertrando, and Meadow Flight won grade II stakes in their next start. In all, Holy Bull defeated the winners of the grade I Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Belmont (twice), Breeders' Cup Classic, Breeders' Cup Sprint, Jockey Club Gold Cup, Whitney, Woodward, Pacific Classic (twice), and Suburban. Not many horses have shown the versatility to defeat a Breeders’ Cup Classic winner and a Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner, and in the same year.

In his eight victories that year, his average Beyer Speed Figure was over 115, which is remarkable for a 3-year-old. Here was a Horse of the Year and champion 3-year-old male who, during his career, defeated a champion older horse, champion sprinter, and champion 2-year-old male, not to mention three classic winners and two Breeders' Cup winners.

Although the Travers was Holy Bull's narrowest margin of victory, it was the race that stamped his true greatness. No Travers winner other than Man o' War had run three-quarters faster than Holy Bull, as he had to put away Tabasco Cat's rabbit. When Concern, racing far back early, charged up almost on even terms, even Croll was convinced Holy Bull was beaten. But he held on tenaciously to win by a neck, with Concern finishing 17 lengths ahead of Tabasco Cat in third. Concern's trainer Dick Small said afterward, "That was a race for the ages. I had to get out of there quick or I would have broken into tears. My horse was fresh and I really thought we had it. For Holy Bull to dig in and fight back like that after all he had to do early in the race showed that he's really something special."

What made Holy Bull such a fan favorite was that he ran as hard, as fast, and as far as he could race after race. He looked the best horses in America in the eye and left them for dead. The way he rated in the Woodward before blowing away a star-studded field by five lengths in 1:46 4/5 was nothing short of spectacular. Just try to imagine racecaller Tom Durkin's voice as he bellowed in a tone of disbelief, "Holy Bull winning like a champion...with devastating ease! Holy Bull toying with the best horses in training."

His rider, Mike Smith, put it best when he said, “I'm in awe of him. I thought he grew wings at the quarter pole."

Everyone expected Holy Bull to point for the Breeders' Cup, but Croll could see some wear and tear after a long, hard year. He knew that making the Breeders' Cup would force him to miss the entire Gulfstream meet. "I took a little heat for the decision to put him away for the year," Croll said. "But I race every year in Florida, and I felt I owed it to them to run the horse there."

Holy Bull was assigned 130 pounds on the Daily Racing Form Free Handicap, the first 3-year-old in 15 years to be weighted that high. He arrived in Florida a national hero. A headline in the Form read:  “ ‘Bullmania' Sweeps the Nation."

Croll brought Holy Bull back in the seven-furlong Olympic Handicap and he easily defeated the classy grade I-winning sprinter Birdonthewire. Then came the Donn Handicap and a battle with an upstart named Cigar, winner of three straight, including the NYRA Mile. One can only speculate what would have happened had Holy Bull not pulled up on the backstretch with a career-ending injury just as he was moving up to challenge Cigar for the lead.

Racing’s Gray Goliath was retired to Jonabell Farm in Lexington, Ky. For Croll, he had received the greatest gift of all – literally. It’s been 14 years and people who saw him still talk about the colt with reverence. They still utter superlatives when they recall his heroic feats. And when they do, just remember one thing: none of it is bull.

53 Comments

Leave a Comment:

wooley85

Excellant story.  I never knew the history about Holy Bull.  

You have outdone yourself this time, Mr. Haskin!

08 Dec 2008 3:44 PM
geober

Great story as always, Steve, and it couldn't have happened to a nicer man than Jimmy Croll.

However, the Holy Bull story actually starts in the early 1960s as Jimmy told me himself the day he received the Big Sport of Turfdom Award.

He trained Parka (turf champ of 1965)and the one horse that gave Parka a very hard time for several seasons was The Axe II. Jimmy both admired and cursed that horse. So when The Axe II was retired to stud, Jimmy vowed to get a measure of recompense by buying a colt from the first crop of The Axe. Just to show how serendipity truly works,that colt turned out to be Al Hattab, sire of Holy Bull.

Jimmy was always dazzled by Holy Bull's talent and accomplishments -- just like the rest of us were -- but Parka had a special place in his heart as the first really good horse he trained.

Keep the good stories coming.

08 Dec 2008 4:25 PM
Ranagulzion

Steve, thanks for this article on one of the truly great ones of recent times.  Holy Bull was absolutely awesome and had demonstrated in both his 2 & 3yo seasons that he had very similar qualities to Spectacular Bid but needed that one more season to prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt.  Fate was a bit unkind to him in that he broke down competing as the favourite against the indomitable Cigar who immediately stole his thunder.  However he is rated on my top ten list above Cigar (no disrespect meant) and as the second most deserving horse not to have won the Kentucky Derby, behind Native Dancer.  

08 Dec 2008 4:37 PM
Jamie

Ah, thanks for the memories, Steve! You made me tear up a bit there, I have to admit.

08 Dec 2008 4:41 PM
Nick Klar

Thanks for the account of one of the greatest horses I didn't get

the chance to see. I did win $100

on Giacomo though!

08 Dec 2008 5:34 PM
tbpartnerperson43

Everyone remembers baseball cards.  I went on a drawer cleaning binge a year or so ago, and I found a set of Holy Bull cards.  I use them now as book markers.  I had forgotten how in awe I was of that colt in a time where the papers were reducing coverage of horse racing, and my life was divorced from racing.  It was a thrill to see Holy Bull at Darley two years ago, and to watch Giacomo jog past me at Pimlico.  This was a wonderful tribute to a great runner.  One can only wonder how Cigar's career might have been impacted had he been hooked by the gray bull.  

08 Dec 2008 5:49 PM
holybulllover

The Bull is without a shadow of a doubt my favorite racehorse of all time.  His speed and his heart were untouchable.  I've seen him countless number of times at Jonabell/Darley and relish every minute I have with him.  I was blessed with the best Christmas present of all about 5 years ago when my Dad arranged for me to have one of his old halters.  It hangs in my house under a picture of him winning the Donn that Mike Smith has signed.  There will never be another like him.  I became a big Cigar fan but knew deep down that he wouldn't have won 16 in a row if The Bull was still running!

08 Dec 2008 6:07 PM
LDP

That has to be one of the best stories i have ever heard. Mr. Haskin, i am such a fan, and started watching racing after it's golden age, meaning i missed some of the best races in history. I never saw the Bull, Cigar, i was only 3 or 4. I wasn't around to wathch the Bid or Secretariat, or even Ruffian. I was only 8 when Charismatic ran in the TC, and first started watching it in 2000. I love horse, and with even more of a passion i love racing. Please keep the stories of the past greats coming, so i at least can imagine their greatness and beauty, and streanght. Only you can write with such vivid detail and discription, to give me the real oppertunities to see these races in my mind.

08 Dec 2008 6:43 PM
Debbie K

I just love these stories about our greatest races - keep them coming!

08 Dec 2008 6:44 PM
Alhattab

Steve- what great memories. The list of the horses that the Bull beat has always been the Bull's most impressive credential. I don't mean to knock Cigar, but looking back at the Bull's company lines vs. Cigar's (other than the 1995 Oaklawn Handicap and maybe a few others), you see how truly special the Bull was.

Anyone interested in further insight should search Holy Bull in Youtube. Some kind soul has posted the Travers, Met, Woodward among others. The Travers still gives me the chills. Just incredible.

Anyone know where I can find one of those t-shirts? I've looked on ebay but haven't seen.

Steve thanks for your continued contributions to this game. I love your magnificent essay on my beloved Monmouth Park in "Crown Jewels". I think of it every time I drive down Port-Au-Peck Avenue.

08 Dec 2008 6:52 PM
NEVERKICKYOURDOG

GREAT(ABOVE) STORY!

A FEW JIMMY CROLL THINGS:

-HE TRAINED SHARON BROWN'S DADDY.

-GREAT ABOVE'S SIRE-MINNESOTA MAC-WAS FROM THE SAME FARM/SAME CROP AS DR. FAGER.  EARLY ON, THEY THOUGHT HE HAD MORE TALENT THAN THE DR.

-IT WAS SOMETHING TO SEE THE PASSING OF THE TORCH FROM HOLY BULL TO CIGAR.

08 Dec 2008 7:00 PM
Katherine

What can I say?  Your stories leave me speechless... Another great one. Thanks Steve.

08 Dec 2008 7:19 PM
Bad Brad

Thanks Steve for the Bull memories since he could get lost in the shuffle at Darley at Jonabell  with all of the new talent . But his race stats can match up or exceed any horse there.  His races were fun to watch especially when he edged out Concern in the Travers.  A friend of mine was there and gave me a picture he took at the finish . Great race !  Plus my mom likes him which is why she bet on and won on   his son Giacomo in the Derby while I didn't play him .  So now , I play every Holy Bull sired horse that I see !!! One time,  I did win $100 on a $2 bet because of that .

08 Dec 2008 7:21 PM
Luvthehorses

Thanks for all of your great stories.  I never saw Holy Bull

race, but wow what a great horse.

Please keep the stories coming.

08 Dec 2008 8:40 PM
Kab-Bak

One of his sons Two Year Old unraced # 365 sold today at Fasig-Tipton for $25,000. In this market, at this time of year, the price might of seemed to be a bit high.BUT WHAT A BUY HE  APPEARS TO BE for the new owners. Not only because is he track ready, it is because of that look he has in the eye.

i.e. Also looks just like the "BULL" his name is "Bullheaded" and I think we will be hearing of him in 2009. I wish this colt and his new connections well.

08 Dec 2008 8:58 PM
russell maiers

Wow, that is a really good story. Thanks Steve. He really beat some incredible horses, that says a lot!

08 Dec 2008 9:37 PM
ofelia

Saw his holiness just last year. He is still gorgeous and proud.

Great Story!

08 Dec 2008 10:24 PM
Derby Derek

Your tales always remind me that I once stood in the presense and in awe of greatness, and thats something that can never go away.

08 Dec 2008 10:45 PM
Matthew W

Steve when you think of it, there were TWO underapreciated horses from that year--Holy Bull was truly a great horse, and his tiring Travers was a thing of beauty, he ran so fast early on that tiring track (that day).....Tabasco Cat is a horse I remember vividly--He was my Derby horse that year, as I was smitten by a race he won in the Bay Area, I think it was The El Camino Real Derby...I knew he could get distance, and I knew he had fight...Steve I think Tabasco Cat should've won the Triple Crown as he didn't like the slop that Derby Day...his gallant nose loss to Concern in BC Classic spamped him as I always knew he was--"legit"!! Tabasco Cat came around at the time of Jeff Lukas's accident---I lived in Oregon then--had I been at Santa Anita, I would have offered Wayne my hand---Wayne Lukas had some great horses, Tabasco Cat is right there at the top, along with Criminal Type, Landaluce, and his greatest horse Grand Canyon.....but Holy Bull...he could smoke elders on the square at Belmont---'nuff said, he was great!

09 Dec 2008 12:54 AM
nice story

well done , my favorite horse!

09 Dec 2008 1:11 AM
normajean81258

Thanks for that story Steve, I didn't know all the history of one of the greatest! I also watch for his offspring. He was always one of my top favs.

Thanks Kab-Bak, I'll be watching "Bullheaded!"

09 Dec 2008 2:58 AM
Peteski13

Great story.

Was that Travers the race Wayne Lukas made the comment about a Bull, a Cat and a Rabbit in the race? I've got a Grandson of Holy Bull in my barn. I'd be happy if Felix had half "The Bull's" talent.    

09 Dec 2008 5:17 AM
da3hoss

Thanks Steve, very interesting about the Derby, I remember watching the post-parade and looking over at my husband and saying "No way, today"...after the race I just said to him "He didn't do anything today but you are looking at a great one"...very interesting comments by Croll...I always wondered why he was so blah that day.

09 Dec 2008 7:06 AM
Dutch

Thanks for the trip down memory lane, Steve. The fans at Monmouth Park were especially fond of Holy Bull and saw him as one of their own. I remember going to Monmouth a few weeks before the Haskell in 1994, when Holy Bull worked out between races. He worked 7 furlongs that day in 1:23 and was just gliding across the track. A terrific horse.

09 Dec 2008 7:37 AM
Bill

I think Jimmy was right: something was definitely not right with the Bull that Derby day. That race was even more mystifying than Big Brown's Belmont. Neither one of them ran a step.  Just goes to show you there's no such thing as a sure thing in this game.

09 Dec 2008 9:19 AM
MikeM

I was standing next to the outside rail by the gap at Monmouth. Out of the corner of my eye this impressive big grey comes walking by the wrong way on his way back to the barn.He was no more than three feet from me and I said to my trainer"who's that", and of course it was Holy Bull. Walking right behind him was Jimmy Croll who my trainer asked if he was running Holy Bull in the BCC. He answerd in one word,"Nope".

This year I am breeding my mare to him because at $10,000 it is too good to pass up. A great race horse,a very good sire and it looks like his sons might become good sires as well.

09 Dec 2008 10:16 AM
mary

Great story. Thats what racing is made of. Great horses and great stroies. Thanks! I'll never forget seeing Holy Bull in the paddock at the stud farm. What a magnificent specimen.

09 Dec 2008 11:39 AM
Cgriff

Steve -

Great recap on another great fighter of a horse.  That Travers was a win of pure talent, gut and will.  He and Croll complimented each other in the PR - the perfect personality and trainer for a horse with such a "smash mouth" way of running.  Just like the Pittsburgh Steelers defense - the Bull just took it to competitors and took it to them hard.  There was no quit in that gray.

09 Dec 2008 12:22 PM
Star of the North

In light of Mr. Croll's passing this past summer, this story was way overdue.

I had the good fortune to be at Keeneland for his win in the Blue Grass and was at the track when he went out for a gallop three days later. His exercise rider was a 60+ guy named Bobby Perna and the Bull threw a memorable tantrum when he was guided back through the gap off the track, angry that he wasn't allowed to do more.

Heads rarely swivel at the Keeneland gap the way they did that day for the Bull.

Smith doffing his cap as he returned to thunderous applause from the Travers day crowd is burned in memory.

Thanks for this one Steve.

09 Dec 2008 12:56 PM
Lady Ruffian

Wow. I loved this story, and honestly I had never seen a race with Holy Bull (in only 21) but i youtubed the '94 Travers and that gave me chills! Too bad im no where near KY, i'd love to see The Bull in person. Keep the stories comming!

09 Dec 2008 1:13 PM
THE ROCK

I got into this game in 91' at the age of 8. My step-father taught me to read the racing form and his numerous methods of handicapping, which took about 3 months for me to grasp. I'll always remember the crop of 91'. What an amazing crop! Dehere, Holy Bull, Tabasco Cat, Blumin Affair, Brocco, Valiant Nature, Strodes Creek, Go for Gin, Concern... Dehere I fell in love with when he won the Saratoga Special. Boxed in on the rail the whole way and finally getting out just before the 1/16th and hearing Tom Durkin scream "Here comes Dehere, he's moving like a rocket"! What a summer @ Saratoga for Dehere. Sweeping all three Graded Two year old stakes there. I get chills from watching those races. Then came this big gray horse named Holy Bull, in which I believe they first locked horns in the Futurity and he just man handled Dehere. I was really looking forward to those two meeting again in the Florida Derby the following year after Dehere defeated HB in the FOY, until Dehere got injured and was forced to retire that spring. I always pulled for Dehere against Holy Bull, because even though he was the champion 2 year old of 93', Holy Bull was just in a whole other league with the talent he had. That Woodward & Met Mile win hold a special place in my heart. We just don't see 3 year olds dominate deep, talented, tested older runners as Holy Bull did in 94'. Other than the Breeders Cup nowadays, we just don't see great horses from both coasts get together for 3 weeks at a time in the most prestigeous races in the country anymore. I mean then, it was a big deal to run in the Woodward, JCGC, Whitney, Hollywood Gold Cup, Big Cap, etc. No matter who was in there, you wanted to run against the best. Now everyone hides out until Breeders Cup or Derby day. And here's an honorable mention for Tabasco Cat. I loved his El Camino Real derby win with Pat Day aboard over Flying Sensation, as I was there live that day. When you're home base is Bay Meadows and you see big time riders come around for your signature race, it was a big deal for us locals. It seemed like Lukas ran him in everything that year. I'm still disappointed that he ran him in the Hollywood Derby just a couple of weeks after the BC Classic. I think that was the cause of his retirement as he was injured after the race. But man what a warrior he was. He always showed up rain or shine. East Coast or West Coast.

09 Dec 2008 1:38 PM
Richie

Another great memory inducement my friend. I remember watching the Derby on TV that year-even in the post parade I remember someone saying that "The Bull looks a bit sleepy today" which was just how he ran. I guess we'll never know, will we?

As for the  Donn, once again we were gathered to watch Holy Bull show this young upstart who was boss. Of course the injury ruined that scenario but to this day I think the big hoss would have beaten Cigar that day. I really do. Anyhow Thanks for another great horse from the past. I have never visited him at the farm but he has been added to the list for 2009. Certainly one of the best to ever hit the track. Also a Merry Xmas to you and your family, Steve!!

09 Dec 2008 2:06 PM
kevin m

I hope Jess Jackson is reading....

09 Dec 2008 2:25 PM
tbpartnerperson43

Just have to figure out how to print out this whole blog.  Steve's story and the blogs are meant to be kept in an archive.  Adding Bullheaded to my Virtual Stable as soon as I send this.

09 Dec 2008 4:48 PM
Eric Rickard

keep the history articles comming. I had forgotten how the Bull's racing life ended. I have followed racing since just before Flying pacer. Being a west coast transplant i favor them. The BUll was great, but Will someone give Point Given his due. He was the best not to have one the derby. Even his jockey the great Gary Stevens dose not no why. But that is another story. Holy bull was great but if someone had gotten to him or was it that he just did not like Churchill. That happens sometimes.

09 Dec 2008 4:48 PM
The Deacon

Brilliant horse whose tragic end was so reminiscent of Ruffian. I still believe he beats Cigar. Holy Bull could have been one of the all time best.

Great article Steve............

09 Dec 2008 8:51 PM
Jeremy

Another great article Steve. Holy Bull was indeed one of the greats. I was a big Holy Bull fan back then and like everyone else was sadden when he lost the derby was in injured in the Donn. Racing was denied a great rivalry between Holy Bull and Cigar. Alot of people knock Cigar just for the simple fact that Cigar won the race. There are alot of doubters on YOUTUBE, I have debated on there numerous of times defending Cigar's name. I think the bashers were die-hard Holy Bull fans, and they take their anger on Cigar. Hey people do that sometimes. For years I hated Bayakoa just for the fact she won the Breeders Cup Distaff at Go for Wand expense. Took a while till I got over it. But Cigar was basically beating the same competition Holy Bull was beating. I dont think Holy Bull would have won the Donn just for the simple fact that Cigar was carrying lighter weight for basically being unknown. You cant give a good horse an edge in weights and we all know what Cigar wind up doing. I think had Holy Bull stayed healthy their possible rivalry would have been up there with Affirmed/Alydar, Sunday Silence/Easy Goer to name a few. Its just a shame he never got to run in a Breeders Cup event. He was one of my favorites and definately in my top 10 although alot of people such as myself doesnt think he is a true 1 1/4 horse. That edge I would give to Cigar but up to a mile I think the Bull has the edge although we would never know, all we can do is speculate. But the 90's was a great decade for racing just like the 80's. Besides Cigar and Holy Bull we had horses such as Go for Wand, Lite Light, Criminal Type, Ruhlman, Farma Way, Black Tie Affair, Housebuster, Unbridled, Summer Squall, In Excess, and Best Pal to name a few. Oh what could have been had Cigar and Holy Bull had a whole season to go against each other to see who was best. We dont see that anymore. Greed is killing the sport.

10 Dec 2008 1:46 AM
In Awe

In addition to being in awe of "the bull" and loving the recent Cannonnero tales, my mouth flew open when the line came up re: did someone get to him before the race.....could that be the reason for Big Brown's poor performance?????

10 Dec 2008 10:54 AM
Sara

Thank you,Steve, from one of many who hold the memories of "Bull" and his trainer, Mr. Croll, in their hearts. Gentlemen, both, all too scarce these latter days.

10 Dec 2008 11:03 AM
Virginia fan

Another great story ...  Thanks, Steve, you are truly a gifted writer!

This is what bris shows as his wins:

14-Aug-93, Monmouth Park, mdn sp wgt, $9,600, 5.5 f, 1:03.80.

2-Sep-93, Belmont Park, alwc, $16,800, 6.5 f, 1:17.00.

18-Sep-93, Belmont Park, gr 1 stk, $69,360, 7 f, 1:23.20.

23-Oct-93, Calder Race Course, stk hcp, $240,000, 8.5 f, 1:46.20.

30-Jan-94, Gulfstream Park, gr 2 stk, $45,000, 7 f, 1:21.20.

12-Mar-94, Gulfstream Park, gr 1 stk, $300,000, 9 f, 1:47.40.

16-Apr-94, Keeneland, gr 2 stk, $310,000, 9 f, 1:50.00.

30-May-94, Belmont Park, gr 1 stk, $300,000, 8 f, 1:33.80.

3-Jul-94, Belmont Park, gr 2 stk, $90,000, 8.5 f, 1:41.00.

31-Jul-94, Monmouth Park, gr 1 stk, $300,000, 9 f, 1:48.20.

20-Aug-94, Saratoga, gr 1 stk, $450,000, 10 f, 2:02.00.

17-Sep-94, Belmont Park, gr 1 stk, $300,000, 9 f, 1:46.80.

22-Jan-95, Gulfstream Park, stk hcp, $51,000, 7 f, 1:22.00.

10 Dec 2008 12:41 PM
TerriV

Steve, Your stories always just bring me to tears.  Holy Bull has always been one of "those" horses for me.  I have followed every "Bull" I have seen out there.  Every one of them seems to make a splash somehow.  I can't wait to watch those videos on UTube.  Thanks for bringing back all those old memories and emotions.  And I'm excited to watch for Bullheaded next year, I'll add him to my list: Old Fashioned, Nicanor, Stardom Bound and now, Bullheaded.

10 Dec 2008 1:52 PM
partymanners

I was there for his 94 Woodward victory... The atmosphere afterwards as he came back to the winners circle, was like nothing ive experienced, the crowd adored him..

10 Dec 2008 2:26 PM
EasyGoerFan

Great story!  This year when there was all the talk of Big Brown being one of the greatest ever, I looked at his speed figures and his competition and then thought of what Holy Bull accomplished as a 3yo.  There is no comparison.  I was a huge fan of Holy Bull.  

I watched him every day at Keeneland in April and October of 1994. He was blistered in October, which did not make me happy, but that was Croll's way.

I went to his retirement party and have visited him many times.  He's still a ham for the fans.

Mike Smith said he's the greatest horse he's ever ridden and with all due respect to Zenyatta, she still has a bit to do to take the top spot if you ask me.

10 Dec 2008 3:19 PM
Steve Haskin

Thanks, everyone. I really appreciate all the comments. I have a few personal stories about Cigar that I will use as my next blog, maybe tomorrow or early Thursday. They are totally different types of stories -- more offbeat -- than the ones I've been writing. I hope you like them.

10 Dec 2008 4:02 PM
mdfanofracing

Thanks for the great story...It seems you keep coming up with stories about horses who won big races I was at. First Bid's Preakness, then yrs later when I was living in south Florida, I was at Holy Bulls Florida derby and won a TON on the trifacta that day. I was also there on Donn day, which had a not so happy ending.I was there with a friend of mine who was a stone cold Cigar fan (I never was) and I was just devistated, as well as humiliated by my friend the Cigar fan, when Holy Bull was injured. Thankfully he has gone on to have a great career at stud. I guess I got the ultimate revenge on the Cigar fan when he ended up being infertile. I always have high hopes for the Bull's offspring when I see them on the track.....Ok, Steve, now it's your job to find another horse who won a race I was at for next week LOL !

10 Dec 2008 4:13 PM
Jimmy Bell

Steve,

Thank you again for reliving one of the best racing stories in modern times. I am sitting here reading your story and looking at Holy Bull's shoes hanging on my wall. I thought just watching his races gave me goose bumps,but reading about them does the same.

I was fortunate enough to be on hand for his 3 and 4 year old campaign and can remember nearly every second of every event you just described.

We were very excited, honored, and proud to have Holy Bull retire to Jonabell.

Our deal was struck on a hand shake with Jimmy Croll(his word) that The Bull would retire to Jonabell.

All I can tell you is that Jimmy Croll and Holy Bull were both pure class.It was a privelige to be associated with both.

Thanks again for the memories. One of the greatest rides I've ever experienced.

10 Dec 2008 5:43 PM
Qatmom

Go back and look at Holy Bull's wins on NYRA tracks.  He did what he did at Saratoga and Belmont before medication rules were changed, making those wins even more remarkable.

10 Dec 2008 10:40 PM
Becky

Holy Bull is my all-time favorite and was the first horse that captured my imagination.  I followed him obsessively throughout his career and have been an avid racing fan ever since.  Holy Bull was the beginning of a passion that has lasted and most recently led to me buying an OTTB that I am retraining for dressage and jumping.  Thanks, Steve, for rekindling the memories!

10 Dec 2008 11:36 PM
Runfast159

Holy Bull easily is one of the greatest thoroughbreds to have run since Bid retired, and many would say he ranks up there with all the best.  His Woodward was simply scintillating, blazing down the stretch under a hand ride, one of the great performances of the past 20 years.  Thanks for remembering him here.  I cannot wait for Cigar stories because he is one of my personal favorites!

11 Dec 2008 12:05 AM
Will W

A truly great racehorse who has not gotten his due from the current generation of racing fans until Steve Haskins resurrected his memory and relived his greatness for the Bloodhorse readership in his latest column. I remember him well as I saw most of these races Steve mentioned and recall the meeting with Cigar that led to his career-ending injury. But for that injury it might not have been so difficult for Steve to recapture his greatness for contemporary race fans and enlighten them as to what a spectacular career Holy Bull had on the racetrack. Looking forward to Steve's upcoming, off-beat stories on Cigar. And, yeah, having watched Holy Bull bomb so uncharacteristically in the KY Derby, someone probably did get to him before the race and juiced him.

11 Dec 2008 8:48 AM
fanofallthree

You're a national treasure, Steve.

11 Dec 2008 8:54 AM
drfager01

A GREAT STORY THAT WE LOVE. THE BEST STORY BY A NON LOSER WINNER, BULL COULD HAVE WON THE TRIPPLE CROWN IF HE WAS LUCKY.

28 Mar 2009 2:08 AM
dr fager01

Its easily said just two words'Holy Bull' i saw him, I was on the Dehere bandwagon, but i said to myself that gray horse has swagger beyond compare, and 1 was right.  Lets give the great Jimmy Croll credit, he was old school and wanted his horse to race at four, and he wanted him to be seen at Gulfstream, his home track early in the year.  I just dis agree with folks making comparisons to Cigar, Cigar did a lot on the track to win 16 races in a row. But had the gray bull been around Cigar would have been another also ran in the annals of this great sport.  I saw Bull live he was as good as Spectacular Bid and the great Native Dancer, what Holy Bull accomplished in 16 races the way he ran he was just an untouchable beast.  I saw John Henry i saw Sunday Silence, Alysheba but the Bull was simply one of the greatest Thoroughbreds of alltime.

16 Jan 2010 1:01 AM

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