New Life for Holy Bull

With the recent announcement that Holy Bull has been retired from stud duty, I thought this would be a good time to recycle and update a column written four years ago, recalling the remarkable story of the The Bull and his owner/trainer Jimmy Croll.

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.

Brilliantly fast on the racetrack, Mr. Prospector was sent to Florida to stand following his retirement, but a short time later was moved to Claiborne Farm in Kentucky, where he became arguably the most influential stallion in the history of American breeding.

Around the time of the colt’s purchase as a yearling, 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,” House said.

It was something trainers never hear and owners never do. A dumbfounded 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.

Some 20 years passed. 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 his father 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 replied, “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 same 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.” As did six other horses owned by Carpenter.

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. This was someone who had bought his first horse in 1940 for $50.

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 Croll two wishes: Holy Bull was named 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 of greats. 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 in 2008 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 after a half in :46 1/5 and the three-quarters in 1:10 2/5. When Concern, 22 lengths off the pace early, charged up almost on even terms with Holy Bull in the stretch, even Croll was convinced Holy Bull was beaten. But the tenacious gray dug in and refused to let Concern pass him, winning by a neck. To show how brutal the pace was, Tabasco Cat, racing in third, five lengths back, finished 17 lengths behind Concern 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 after the race, “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 at Gulfstream 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 (now the Cigar 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 (now Darley at Jonabell) in Lexington, Ky. For Croll, he had received the greatest gift of all – literally. It’s been 18 years and people who saw him race still talk about the colt with reverence. They still utter superlatives when they recall his heroic feats. And if you’ve never seen this brilliant horse in action, be assured none of it is bull.

Holy Bull - 2011
Holy Bull in 2011 - Photo by Steve Haskin

Holy Bull - 2011
Holy Bull in 2011 - Photo by Steve Haskin

Holy Bull nipping at my daughter's hair
Holy Bull nipping at my daughter's hair - Photo by Steve Haskin

Holy Bull and Mandy
Holy Bull and Mandy - Photo by Steve Haskin


Leave a Comment:

Heidi Carpenter

What a wonderful story, is all I can say. My husband and I visited Holy Bull last year as well, and the great horse knew he was something special. It was a great honor to see him.

12 Jul 2012 2:07 PM

Wow, what a great champion Holy Bull was.  One of the greats, and fabulously named, as it turns out.  I've always been struck by Holy Bull's look - his coloring has always been quite vivid in photographs and videos, and the pictures above prove that.  What a beautiful face this wonderful talented champion has!  Holy Bull has a soulful face.  Reading about HB's exploits still gives me goosebumps.  Mike Smith was very lucky and privileged to have been his jockey.  I love the quote MS made about Holy Bull sprouting wings.  So poetic, you can almost see that literally happening in Mike's description of Holy Bull's victories.

Thank you, Steve, for the great walk down memory lane with this marvelous, formidable champion, Holy Bull.  Fabulous column, as usual.  What a great horse Holy Bull is.  I thank Holy Bull for sharing his incredible talent with us, and I wish Holy Bull good fortune ahead and a happy life.  

12 Jul 2012 2:12 PM
Andy Tuck

Remember all this quite well, a real shot in the arm for racing. Years later was privilaged to foal his dam at Three Chimneys. She was the ultimate "Good Mom". Always the last out of the field at weaning, seen one nursing on each side and one with their head between her hind legs. Truly a "Grand Dam", I would say he was very secure from birth. Loved this story.

12 Jul 2012 2:13 PM

Steve, I was so glad to see your "recap" of "the Bull's" career.   I've alwasy loved this "street fighter" of a racehorse and LOVE that I can still see his descendent MUCHO MACHO MAN mowing down the competition and giving Kathy Ritvo the "great' horse she deserves as a trainer!   I always thought HOLY BULL reminded me of the Great DR. FAGER in that he just did NOT give up or give in.    As far as I am concerned you don't have to win or evern RUN in the Derby to be considered a great horse......just ask MAN O WAR......didnt' hurt his reputation a bit!

I hope the BULL lives a long comfortable life!  :)    Thanks again Steve for another GREAT one!  I occasionally commentat on a local radio station on the races and the TB Industry in general......I aspire to speak it into the microphone as well as you WRITE IT!  

12 Jul 2012 2:34 PM

Thank you Steve for sharing such a lovely story.  What an awesome horse!  Happy retirement!

12 Jul 2012 2:37 PM

No question Holy Bull was a top class racehorse.  I don't think he was "gotten to" before the Derby....I don't think he cared for the sloppy track.  The early time of year going 1 1/4 miles can do in some horses, but then they come back in the Travers and win as he did.  The wire arrived just in time in the Travers for the Bull.  I believe his best distance was 1 1/8 miles as he showed numerous times.  I sincerely hope his line continues and gets stronger.  It needs more stamina though.  Hopefully Macho Uno and Mucho Macho Man will be the links for Holy Bull to the future.  Enjoy your retirement!

12 Jul 2012 2:58 PM

My all-time favorite. I once read a cute story about how Mrs. Carpenter named him. She was a devoted Yankees fan. Phil Rizzuto was the Yankees announcer and his favorite expression was "Holy Cow", so Mrs. Carpenter was saving that name for a special horse. She was getting on in years so she decided to use it for her good gray colt. Fortunately, at the last minute, Holy Cow was changed to Holy Bull. (Holy Cow just doesn't have the same ring to it!) The word "great" is thrown around so often these days, but Holy Bull was a truly great horse.

12 Jul 2012 3:17 PM
Linda in Texas

Steve, the beautiful smile on Mandy's face is priceless and you know the attention she paid to Holy Bull he probably remembers to this day.

Thank you for this article. I guess some of us older folk live in the past and thank goodness the younger ones appreciate it.

I am saving the photos as i do all of them. I have over 4,000 downloads of nothing but photos of horses. These will treasures.

12 Jul 2012 3:26 PM
Sue MacGray

I love this story Steve. I didn't know too much about him, but had heard his name so many times.... Will have to stop in and visit him when we're in the area.

12 Jul 2012 3:41 PM

Aw,Bully, You were a joy to behold on the track! Enjoy your retirement. And thank you Steve, for telling again Bully's story.

12 Jul 2012 3:52 PM

Thank you Steve for reposting this story. We are huge fans of The Bull and have been to see him several times. For my oldest daughter Brandy, he was her first and still most favorite racehorse. For her 12th Birthday in 1995, I called Jonabell and made arrangements for her to see him as a Birthday present. We blindfolded her prior to leaving the house and she remained blindfolded during the 40 minute drive. We took her out of the car and stood her by the barn. The groom stood the Bull directly in front of her and we removed the blindfold. When she saw who it was words can not describe. (You are 'tagged' in on of the photos thought you'd enjoy.) To say the Folks at Jonabell were absolutely fantastic in making a littles girls dream birthday is an understatement. He has whitened over the years but the fire still burns. I will never forget his Travers or Tom Durkins call 'and there is cause for Concern' and he laid out there and refused to yield to the tuff little Broad Brush colt. Also remember some of the not so nice things Lukas had to say prior to the Travers. To me that was his best and defining race in a stellar career. Just dont make them like the Bull anymore it seems. He has done well as a stallion given he was not given the best of the best mares and hopefully his influence will continue on through Macho Uno, Giacamo, Hull and Flashy Bull. Too bad Macho Again is in Venezuela but probably has a better chance there than here as breeders tend to snub anything that is not a Dancer line these days. Hopefully Jonabell will keep Holy Bull available for his many fans to see for many years to come.

12 Jul 2012 4:03 PM

Holy Bull had one of the most illustrious 3YO campaigns of all time ...truly a great one. Happy and healthy retirement to him.

12 Jul 2012 4:59 PM

or darley stud, could send holy bull to old friends or the ky horse park, that way people won't be turned again, when they want to see him, during breeding season, since i know most if not all of the stud farms become private and won't let people visit the stallions there, which is understandable, as they have a lot of other things going on at the time.

12 Jul 2012 5:33 PM
steve from st louis

And I thought Holy Bull was a good looker but that little filly in the picture with him puts him to shame.

12 Jul 2012 6:02 PM
Ted from LA

I thought "Holy Cow" was Harry Carey's proclaimation.

12 Jul 2012 6:24 PM
Mike Relva

Class Act!

12 Jul 2012 7:06 PM

Mrs. Carpenter was a Yankees fan, not a Cubs fan. Phil Rizutto originated "holy cow".  I don't want Holy Bull to be moved from his lifelong home - older stallions frequently die within a year after they are moved. There was a good article on Holy Bull in the Blood Horse magazine earlier this year, talking about how he still had the most visitors of any of the Darley stallions. (It would be nice if Steve could get this article reprinted here.) Holy Bull is not a tourist attraction - he deserves to live out his life in familiar surroundings, cared for by the people he knows.

12 Jul 2012 7:17 PM

Yep, I gotta say it Steve - Holy Cow what an article!  Great history on Holy Bull.  I'm not too fond of his son, Giacomo though!  Ya'all can figure out why!!!!!!!

You know, I've seen Barry Manilow perform "Mandy" on stage many times, it is just a beautiful song.  I've always wanted to see a real life Mandy and voila, there she is more beautiful than the song.  The photo of her in a Holy Bull T-Shirt petting Holy Bull is priceless.  Thank you, Steve.  She is blessed to have a Daddy like you.

12 Jul 2012 7:58 PM
Lammtarra's Arc

Best horse from the 90's! Holy Bull would have ran the socks off of Cigar at 4 and 5.  What a classy classy horse.  I will never forget his Travers win , and beating 1994 BC Classic winner Concern.  This horse was one of the greats.  Only certain horses have what he had, and that Elite list includes Dr.fager, Big Red, The Bid, and ghostzapper.  That incredible speed mix with Stamina, and nobody gets bye!!.

12 Jul 2012 8:34 PM
Karen in Texas

Holy Bull still has a distinctive and beautiful look, even at the age of 21 years. His 3-year-old season was one of the most accomplished ever, and I hope he enjoys a long, happy retirement. (By the way, Steve, those photos of Mandy are extra cute!)

12 Jul 2012 9:01 PM
Lexington Bloodstock

Steve, write a book, damn it!!  Another great recollection.  As a lifelong racing fan, horse lover, and reader I think you do it as well as anyone.  

12 Jul 2012 9:38 PM


To use your phrase and historical intent, I'd say, rather, that the story of Holy Bull began some 30 or more years before he was even born. I suspect more relevant than your Mr. Prospector tie in is the fact that Croll trained the very accomplished gelding, Parka, for Mrs. Carpenter in the very early 60s. Parka, with his connections, is rather indelible in my mind, as I often went to see him run at the Jersey tracks. You see, he was sired by Arctic Prince who was also sire of my first horse. Parka was two years her senior.  

12 Jul 2012 11:02 PM
Paula Higgins

First, Mandy was an adorable little girl- and a lucky one too. She must have some great memories even at her very young age thanks to her parents. This is a wonderful story about a great horse, two incredibly generous people and one very blessed trainer. Holy Bull was one handsome horse. I agree with c/rock, let him stay where he knows the people and he has been happy. He deserves that. I would love to ask Mike Smith where he would rank him in relation to his other great horse, Zenyatta.

12 Jul 2012 11:04 PM
Windy City

I wish I will age as nicely!

Great story Steve, as always! Did they disclose why was he pensioned?

13 Jul 2012 12:27 AM

Has any horse since Holy Bull had an average Beyer Speed Figure of 115 or above?  That is amazing, especially considering that he was only 3 and he ran many times that year at tracks from Florida to Kentucky to New York and New Jersey.

This year, we were all waiting for a 3yo to break the 100 mark before the Kentucky Derby.  Holy Bull ran a 117 in the Florida Derby and it was an effortless hand ride.  He was a spectacular and dazzling runner.

Many of the recent Breeders' Cup Classic winners didn't run a 115.  

Holy Bull is in a class by himself.  He will forever be one of my absolute favorites.  

13 Jul 2012 7:11 AM
Criminal Type

Steve, Your daughter is one lucky girl to have been nibbled on by such greatness (I'm sure Holy Bull is not the only Champion she has hung out with). She certainly favors you. Great Story, I was at his Florida Derby and his Donn. I left Gulfstream Park that day after the Donn thinking, I hope he will be ok, because we didnt have the technology of today where you can get information about racing with a few taps of the keyboard. I was so relieved to find out his injury would not end his life. That race was the reason I could never get behind Cigar. What a horse !

13 Jul 2012 7:19 AM
Criminal Type

Windy, I heard declining fetility and infirmities of old age. I imagine that old Donn injury is nagging him pretty good at 21.

13 Jul 2012 7:20 AM

Gee, Steve, I'd like to say that's a lot of bull, but I can't.  It's such a beautiful story.  Unfortunately for me, Holy Bull hit the track at the same time my own life was in upheaval, so I never really got to see him race.  

But thanks to you, I'll hit up You tube for the replays, now that I learned so very much from you.  The photos are incredible, as is your charming daughter.

13 Jul 2012 8:51 AM

Very nice story about Holy Bull.  My interest in the sport does not go back to the 90's, but I loved reading this story about legend and hope to meet him one day.  Thanks, Steve.

13 Jul 2012 9:06 AM
Shelby's Best Pal

Thank you for this wonderful story. I remember so well my visit to Jonabell in the mid '90's.  I came to visit Holy Bull and Affirmed and take pictures.  Affirmed was so nice and willing to step out of his stall into the hot Kentucky summer sun and pose for a picture which I still proudly display in my home.  Holy Bull on the other hand had no interest in leaving the shade of his stall for a mere picture.  However, when my Mom began unwrapping a peppermint, he pricked his ears, turned around, and came out for his photo op.  Still smile when I remember that.  He was and remains one of my all-time favorites.  And I am so happy I was able to visit him and Affirmed.  

13 Jul 2012 9:31 AM

I watched most of his races if not all of them,it was unique to see this horse perform.My heart broke in his last race.He was just stsrting to make his move,and he had to be pull up.I bet that Cigar would not be able to win that race if the Bull had finished his race

13 Jul 2012 10:33 AM
an ole railbird

  the last time i heard "mike smith" comment on the subject, he still thought holly bull was as fast of a horse as he had ever been on .

  have a nice day

   'an ole railbird".

13 Jul 2012 11:13 AM

Thanks for reprinting this wonderful story about Holy Bull and his progeny.

How can the Racing Gods not exist? Mike Smith, who rode the Bull in '93-4, had recently visited him at Darley's Jonabel Farm. Then it's announced that Ramon Dominguez had given up his mount on the Bull's grandson, Mucho Macho Man. And then who takes over, none other than Mike Smith.

After MMM's convincing victory at the Suburban, the grand old man aka, The Bull, was retired.

What a terrific gift this win at the Suburban was to the Bull. And it showed what a classy outfit that Darley is and the Ritvos and owners of Mucho are.

13 Jul 2012 11:49 AM

In light of the lack of interest shown to I'll Have Another in Kentucky, it's interesting to see that other wonderful stallions have had the same problem. Holy Bull was a prime example of a champion horse of the year, a tough minded and brilliant stallion not geting the best mares to mate with. And just his breeding price of $10,000 says it all. Another fabulous horse who has received little Ky breeders interest was Smarty Jones.

Japanese breeders have ben clamering for Smarty to visit there.

13 Jul 2012 11:57 AM

Steve, I really liked reading about Holy Bull. He was one of my few favorites.

It's amazing your knowledge and memory of horses and people associated with them. You certainly are in a class by yourself, when it comes to this.

13 Jul 2012 12:55 PM


As the heartbreaking events unfolded prior to the Belmont and the sale of IHS to Japan, I ask myself, why look forward to the Triple Crown every year? Why despite the disappointments, I look forward to watching the results of the new crop of two year olds? The reason lies buried in childhood memories. As a horse crazy little girl with minimal access to horses, the only connection with my passion was television and Hialeah. I grew up near the iconic track. It was beautiful in the seventies, the grounds were lush with tropical flowers and trees and the flamingos in the infield added a shock of pink to an already colorful landscape. The horses might have had wings in my child's mind as they galloped around the surreal oval.  Horse racing became an event that  transported me beyond an ordinary existence.

In 1973, a mystical red creature barreled into my heart and carved his name on it. I was acutely aware that this horse was not of this world. The legend of Pegasus was true because here he was flying around the track. Later, I became busy with life and school and I would check in on racing when I could and along came Holy Bull! Again, childhood memories flooded back and invaded my reveries. Hope was fulfilled!

The mythical creature was back. The Woodward and Travers races were for the ages! The excitement of watching him race stayed with me long after he retired and I was able to see him in his retirement at Darley. He was all white and filled out but he was still impressive and his gaze was intimidating. I was in awe of him. After all these years, this great athlete still had the power to touch my soul. I am happy that he will live out the rest of his days at Darley and hope they will continue to display him to the fans.

Now, that I have more time and the internet allows more access to information, I keep up with racing more closely. There have been many wonderful horses since Holy Bull, too many to list, but only the names change over time.  The horses and the power they wield continue to inspire me to hope that there will be another Triple Crown, another I'll Have Another, and another Holy Bull. Until then...I hope.

13 Jul 2012 1:00 PM

Ah, Steve, yet another little gem of an article. You do such a great job of bringing the horses, people, and history to life, again and again. I join those who long for an anthology of Steve Haskin articles, and let's not wait until you are the LATE Steve Haskin...

I enjoyed watching Holy Bull race, and hope he has a long happy retirement.

And your daughter Mandy could probably write a book herself, of all the wonderful racehorses (and some of their people) she met before she was even a teenager. It's a nice personal touch when you include Mandy or Joan in your articles or photos... just shows how much racing and the horses mean to you, you bring your family along sometimes. Hope Mandy still likes the horses...

13 Jul 2012 1:05 PM

gray horses make me swoon, especially Holy Bull. What a great guy!uh huh!!

13 Jul 2012 1:33 PM


(also Mandy is cute.  Takes after her mother, does she?)

(sorry -- easy shot and I took it)

13 Jul 2012 2:54 PM

Always have loved him! Macho uno and flashy bull will carry on his success at stud!

13 Jul 2012 4:06 PM
Steve Haskin

mz, I'm the first to recognize that fact of life.

longtimeracingfan, thanks, Mandy still loves it. We're all going up to Saratoga for the Whitney and sales. She either likes the horses or likes getting dressed up :).

13 Jul 2012 4:15 PM

Great story.  Just had to let you know that the rabbit who softened up Holy Bull in the Travers is standing out in my pasture right now.  My mother bred Commanche Trail and he was purchased by DWL for Overbrook Farm as a yearling.

Despite being used as a rabbit for 2 years, Commanche Trail turned into a graded stakes winner, sprinting (with Mike Smith riding :O) ) and earned $400,000.

When I found him running for a $4k tag at Mountaineer, I claimed him back and he has been happily retired to my farm for 14 years.

Here he is, yesterday, taking a bath in his bathtub.

13 Jul 2012 4:17 PM
Steve Haskin

That is wonderful, Pam. And love that photo. He looks great and obviously is a very happy horse.

13 Jul 2012 4:39 PM
Tiz Herself

I have read this at least half a dozen times and never tire of reading of Holy Bull or any other horse's documentary penned by Steve Haskin. Holy Bull was a remarkable athlete and I hope that his legacy will be carried on, not only through Macho Uno, but Giacomo is still young yet and he could hold hidden surprises as the years pass.

Steve - what is your view on the renaming of the Goodwood Stakes and the Lady's Secret? I don't mind so much the Goodwood Stakes being renamed to the Awesome Again and while I truly admire that Santa Anita has the Zenyatta Stakes now, I wish that hers would have been created and Lady's Secret would lot be replaced. Interesting as well, Santa Anita looks to be busy as they renamed the California Cup Classic to the Lava Man Cal Cup Classic as well.

Zenyatta should have a race named after her hands down no question... just wish Lady's Secret could have kept hers. Another grey I have a soft spot for! I was much too young to watch her race, but I do watch her replays every chance I get!

Rock on Awesome Again, Lava Man and yes Zenyatta as am happy she's got her own race now.

Enjoy your retirement Holy Bull as you deserve it!

13 Jul 2012 7:06 PM

I just bought an awesome dvd of HOLY BULL that shows 12 of his greatest races all in their entirety. Check it out here:

13 Jul 2012 7:58 PM

Steve, I enjoyed seeing Mandy's pictures with Holy Bull...what an adorable child she was. Easy to see she was badly infected with Horse Fever though!:) I recognized the look right away.

Really great to read that Comanche Trail was found and brought home. He looks to happy.

13 Jul 2012 8:37 PM
Linda in Texas

TCFever - thank you very much for the link for the HOLY BULL dvd's.

And PMahony - thank you for the history and the wonderful photo.

I bet he is even smart enough to turn the water on and off. Lucky for you both that you found him.


13 Jul 2012 9:44 PM
Tiz Herself

Holy Heavens (love her!) I hope she produces some stars and carries on and there's Search the Church who was another of his daughters I respected.

Holy Bull's legacy will carry on!

does anyone ever know what became of Holy Bull son Liberty Bull?

13 Jul 2012 10:07 PM
Paula Higgins

an old railbird, thank you for your response to my Mike Smith question. I thought as much. I may get that DVD, so thank you TCFever! Tiz Herself, as anyone who has read my posts knows, my admiration for Zenyatta and her connections is second to none. But I am not happy they took away Lady's Secret's race and renamed it. They should have picked another Grade I. I mean they have a race now called the "Chandelier" race and it is a Grade I. For goodness sakes, what the heck is that? That would have been a good one to change to Zenyatta. If some other super star comes along, what are they going to do, change it from Zenyatta to the new super star's name? I think it is very declasse to do that. I work in a outpatient center that was named after one of the Catholic sisters who worked there for deacdes. She was a saint, a character and devoted to the patients. They named the building after her when she died and then 10 years later changed it to to the name of an M.D. who donated money. Talk about declasse (accent over the last e). I think when Jerry and Ann Moss said they didn't want to do that the first time they tried to rename the Lady's Secret after Zenyatta, they should have respected their wishes.

13 Jul 2012 11:02 PM

Dear Steve - Another top notch horse-ography ( if you will) of this great stallion.  I only knew him as Giacomo's Pop and Flashy Bull, but how fortunate for all that got the opportunity to watch him race.  May he have many years of happy retirement.  As an aside, today we went to the horse exhibit at the Natural History Museum in San Diego.  Nice.... A room is devoted to the one and only Zenyatta .  A great side trip for those planning to come to the races.  Thanks for the pictures.  It is amazing how much he lightened up over the years.  I'm a sucker for those grays.

13 Jul 2012 11:46 PM
jim culpepper

I have followed the Bulls get since reading Ellen Parkers piece, "The Softening of the Thoroughbred Runner." Naturally, I root for Mucho Macho Man, even though I dislike very large  horses as a rule.

14 Jul 2012 8:11 AM
Stellar Jayne

Steve - Thanks for the wonderful article about Holy Bull.  I didn't know his full biography.  

TC Fever thanks for the website of HB's races.

PMahoney - beautiful picture of Comanche Trail.  I wish you had posted more photos of him.  So happy you rescued him!

14 Jul 2012 11:33 AM

Magnificent tribute!!! A beautiful one for the best horse of his era... Whith out any doubt, Holy Bull was a gift, above all for those who didn´t have the chance to see other exceptional horses before him (Secretariat, Forego, Affirmed, Alydar, Slew, etc, etc...) Thanks a lot Mr Steve for it.

14 Jul 2012 5:59 PM
Paula Higgins

PMahony, loved that video of him spashing around in his bath! You are a good soul.

14 Jul 2012 7:15 PM
Tiz Herself

A great day for the late Dynaformer! With the performances by Point of Entry and Starformer, that was awesome. And for Rahy as Rahystrada showed his stuff, yet again! Both Phipps horses Point of Entry and Boisterous I look forward to watching more of.

One of the horses who I wondered if he would ever have a race named after him was Seattle Slew. I may be stand corrected, but I don't believe Seattle Slew has a race in his name?

Am already looking through and bookmarking Holy Bull 2 yo to follow for 2012 and love the names!




Year of the Bull

Mountain Kitty (is a winner already)

And will continue to follow Holy Heavens, Toro Bravo, Holy Highway, and any Holy Bull grandkids that come about!

14 Jul 2012 9:43 PM
Lise from Maine


Wonderful story! Thanks for sharing it with us.

Holy Bull is so cute.

14 Jul 2012 11:46 PM
Lise from Maine


What are the black spots on Holy Bull's face?

The first photo of him doesn't show those black spots.

The last photo shows that he isn't happy.

I wonder why?

14 Jul 2012 11:57 PM
Pedigree Ann

Anybody else miss the knock-down, drag-out arguments on Jay's blog? Not that I don't value Steve's more civilized presence and excellent writing. But there is no longer a place for hashing out the various positions we fans take on horses currently racing among these blogs anymore.

15 Jul 2012 10:43 AM
ceil rock

Gray horses are born very dark and get lighter as they age, but the process is not even. Their legs might stay dark longer than their body, or they might have splotches of dark hair on their face or hindquarters. I have a beautiful picture of Holy Bull from the 2005 Stallion Register. His mane is still black and his legs are dark. He has dapples all over his body which is turning white.  Occasionally you will see a horse like Tapit (and his son Hansen), who turned almost white at a very young age. Holy Bull looks like he's keeping an eye on the photo-grapher in the last picture.

15 Jul 2012 11:33 AM
Lammtarra's Arc

Lise from Maine-  What are you talking about?.  The first picture is Holy Bull now, or recently.  The bottom pic is him during his racing days, and what makes you think he was unhappy?....

15 Jul 2012 11:58 AM
Linda in Texas

This is being written in honor of

Mr. Anthony Leonard,the greatest photographer of horses i know who happened to leave this earth on July 14, 2012, the same day the progeny of some of his earlier photgraphed champions raced.

The almighty one in charge of our last breath, saw fit to take Mr. Leonard home on the very same day that Cozzene's,and probably his last progeny before his death in 2008, colt Cozzetti won The American Derby, Arlington Race 8 raced along with Macho Bull by Macho Uno whose bloodlines include Mr. Prospector.

As i looked at Cozzene's history, and the last photo of Cozzene that Mr. Anthony Leonard took of Cozzene

in the twilight of the that day and the twilight of Cozzene's life and one i had as my desk top photo for 2 years, I just found it rather touching that Cozzetti's win brought thoughts of his sire to a day in Saturday, July 14, 2012, when Tony Leonard went home.  

All Stormy raced a gallant one and was ahead until Cozzetti came through on the inside having been checked twice and won by a head anyway. Sheer determination was all over his expression.

That is a tribute on the same day to Cozzene, who in The 1984 Breeder's Cup was racing third to

Royal Heroine - the race was being called by Mr. Tom Durkin who raised his voice and said "Cozzene bursting on the outside." And he won his race. Only difference, Cozzetti burst ahead on the inside.

I mention this for several reasons. I take some things i hear with a grain of salt. Thus disagreement. Cozzene was a durable horse, he never gave up and

he was actively siring foals very close to the day he died at the age of 28 in 2008. One never knows when the traits of their predecessors are going to show up.

I ask you to re read Steve Haskin's article in

dated 14 May 2012,"Haskin's Preakness Report: Cozzetti Keeps

Sire's Spark Alive." Cozzetti was bred to Lemon Drop Kid's mare, Lemon Drop Cello and is Cozzetti's dam.

There are some strong bloodlines in these 2 special 3 year olds in

Macho Bull who raced in The Arlington Derby yesterday and Cozzetti.

Mr. Leonard no doubt will continue his life long love of photography as he meets all the famous and not so famous horses he has photographed over his many years.

I have no doubt that Cozzene will be the first to greet him as Mr. Leonard took what was probably the last photograph of Cozzene.

And life goes on for the rest of us

but not without a look back to what

has made this sport so special to me. It is not always the winners that impress me, it is the threads of who they have in their blood lines that never cease to draw me in to respect them all.

Cozzetti performed like his daddy yesterday,he reached back into his sire's traits and he did not give up. It is that built in ambition i have spoken about before that is not only true with people but with horses also.

You are born with ambition or you are not. You are born as a horse with it or you are not. Therefore i respectfully disagree that multiple times removed as a sire or a dam does not decrease one's proclivity to inherit the trait for speed, endurance or the will to win. Good for his owners The Albaugh Family Stables and Dale Romans his trainer. I wish Cozzetti a life as long and winning as his sire Cozzene and his dam, Lemon Drop Cello.

Rest in Peace Mr. Leonard and thank you. I have multitudes of your photographs and i love every one of them. But my all time favorite is of Cozzene that you took shortly before he died stepping lightly in the newly fallen snow at twilight. Cozzene was a gray you know.:)

I would refer you also to an article written for

upon Cozzene's death in 2008, by Sean Feld,14Oct.2008 in "Thanks, Cozzene."

And as always, Thanks, Steve.

15 Jul 2012 1:12 PM

Pedigree Ann,

I'm agreeing with you ...Jason's approach is missed.

15 Jul 2012 2:15 PM
Steve Haskin

Claire Novak has taken over Jason's Triple Crown and Breeders' Cup blogs and she should satisfy your wants and needs. She's already written a blog on Hymn Book prior to the Suburban.

15 Jul 2012 2:23 PM
Linda in Texas

I might look at Claire's blog, but my needs are satisfied right here. No drabby gab from Draynay for me or KY VET or other's that no more care about this sport than my dogs Mugsy, Rascal, Cissy, Nellie and Pepper-oni and Speckles(all rescues). On the other hand when a horse wins that i am cheering for, you can find them all lined up howling with me. It happened just yesterday when Cozzetti won.  So pretty fresh on my mind.

I miss Jason and his approach was unusual and he knew it and did it on purpose. :) only disagreement i had was his taking jabs at the Mosses, but that was a personal thing and it was his blog.  Hope he and his family are doing well in sunny Florida. I bet he has a tan to die for!

And Hello Saratoga spiff it up! The

Haskin's are coming!! Lucky ya'll.

Someday i will get to go back, I hope. Look forward to your posts, and thanks Steve, Joan and Mandy. Have a memorable time.


15 Jul 2012 3:08 PM
Paula Higgins

Pedigree Ann, I understand what you are saying. I miss the give and take of the "sturdy battlers who take no prisoners" but I am happy to come here to Steve's beautifully written blog for a mostly peaceful exchange of ideas. I am not sure Claire will post some of the, shall we say, less than genteel comments that Jason used to post. Remains to be seen.

15 Jul 2012 4:23 PM
Mike Relva

Are you joking? Shandler's agenda almost always was "my way or the highway". He couldn't spell the word objective.

15 Jul 2012 6:07 PM
Linda in Texas

I typoed in my blog, I meant Cozzene not Cozzetti was bred to Lemon Drop Kid's mare Lemon Drop Cello and she is Cozzetti's dam.

Sorry about that.

15 Jul 2012 6:33 PM

Thanks Steve, love the interconnectedness in your writing as you thread the past with the present. Had a giggle over the reference to "Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow" with regards to Holly Bull creating "more havoc than any bovine since." By the way, "Judy at Carnegie Hall is still the definitive version regarding that tune.

In some respects Holy Bull used to remind me of the great Dr. Fager. Resembling, not comparing.  

15 Jul 2012 6:59 PM
Karen in Texas

Steve's blog allows a fair amount of substantial discussion. Mr. Reddam has inspired some spirited comments for example. Jason tended to be an "instigator", especially with certain topics.

Mike R.---LOL!

15 Jul 2012 7:21 PM

To PMahony:

Thank you for sharing the picture of Commanche Trail.  He certainly was having lots of fun in that water - LOL - and looks like a very, very happy horse.  It is evident that you have taken very good care of him over the years.  You have a good heart, and Commanche Trail is a lucky horse to have you in his life, to love him and take care of him.

To Linda in Texas:  

What a lovely tribute to Mr. Leonard, as well as Cozzene and Cozzene's son, Cozzetti.  It is clear you have a special place in your heart for both the man and the horse, and that you are fan of Cozzene's progeny.  I'm sure Mr. Leonard and Cozzene are proud and thankful of your tribute to them.  It was a very lovely post.

16 Jul 2012 1:16 AM

Mike Relva,

 I agree with your comment about Jason. Nor could he handicap. He was terrible. Why can't the Blood Horse put so called real handicappers on THS, not writers. They are most of the time, trying to beat the winner at a price.

16 Jul 2012 5:04 PM

Steve, you should check out the link mentioned by TC Fever. The description of the Holy Bull CD is almost IDENTICAL to this article. Did you write that page?

16 Jul 2012 10:05 PM
Mike Relva


Thanks! Amusing in his final or next to last blog he commented something about he stirred the pot like Howard Stern. My point is simply if you're the real deal shouldn't have to inject theater into the equation. Didn't appreciate attempting to make a career of bashing a certain horse/connections. Several in the industry dismissed him as a mere joke at best.

17 Jul 2012 2:14 AM

Mike Smith actually reads the comments people send to him on his facebook account. He had placed a old picture of him and Holy Bull in the winners circle at Gulfstream on his facebook page. I had commented about the Bull's talented grandson, Mucho Macho Man.

Mike is a sentimental guy and the Bull was his first big time stallion. And the Bull was inelgiable to run in the Breeders Cup in '94.

I wouldn't be surprised if Mike rides Macho in the Breeders Cup Classic at Santa Anita this year. I believe he will choose a relative of the Bull over Bodemeister. Just like he promised John Sherriffs redemtion for the Bull by winning the Ky Derby on Giacomo, he will redeem the Bull's legacy by riding his grandson in the BC Classic. And it will be another Mike Smith and Chantal Sutherland showdown in the Classic this year.

18 Jul 2012 9:35 AM

To Mike Relva:  I concur 100%. I only hope that I don't bump into at Gulfstream; I might forget that I am a lady--LOL.

18 Jul 2012 9:37 AM
Old Old Cat

An article by Steve,,, with photos of a little girl and a horse...


18 Jul 2012 7:34 PM
Mike Relva


One of many instances underscoring Shandler's childish behavior was just prior to Zenyatta's last race he made a point to post John "glared" at him. With all the garbage he threw at horse and connections think he got off light. lol

18 Jul 2012 8:06 PM

Black Spots:

It's hard to tell from a photo of an old gray who has retained a lot of his pigmentation, but when the melatonin leaves the hair it doesn't evaporate. It turns up elsewhere in the body as tumors, melatomas, most frequently under the tail.

Lady's Secret had a very prominent one on her face as quite a young broodmare, which may be why, although drawing bids in the millions, she failed to meet her reserve in several appearances in the sales ring.

28 Jul 2012 12:49 AM

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