Anne M. Eberhardt

Racing Loses One of its Greats: Holy Bull Dead at 26

Jimmy Bell, Godolphin: "One of the best racehorses of the last quarter century."

One of the best racehorses in the last quarter century and a firm favorite with racing fans, Holy Bull succumbed to the infirmities of old age and was put down June 7 at Jonabell Farm, his home since his retirement to stud in 1995.

Godolphin USA president Jimmy Bell, whose family owned Jonabell prior to Sheikh Mohammed's purchase in 2001, said, "If you were putting together your fantasy horse stable for the last 25 years, you'd have to have Holy Bull in your top five. Horses like Holy Bull just don't come along that often. I've always said, he wasn't a specialist—short, grass, long, or dirt. Just a fantastic racehorse. You can't mention his name without using such words as 'fighter, determination, and guts.' "  

Bell continued, "The whole story of Holy Bull, Mrs. Carpenter, and Jimmy Croll, jockey Mike Smith…it was just a sensational ride. No doubt, at the time, Holy Bull was an icon for our family farm."

Throughout the final eighth-mile of the grade 1 Woodward Stakes, regular NYRA race caller Tom Durkin's tone of disbelief of what he was witnessing summed up the emotion of all who watched the big gray, as he blared out, "Holy Bull winning like a champion...with devastating ease! Holy Bull toying with the best horses in training." At the end of the year, Holy Bull was assigned 130 pounds on the Daily Racing Form Free Handicap, the highest for a 3-year-old in 15 years, and a front page headline of "Bullmania Sweeps the Nation."

Holy Bull's original owner, Rachel Carpenter, bequeathed all of her horses to trainer Jimmy Croll who was the owner of record for Holy Bull's first start in 1993. He won all four races as a 2-year-old, including the grade 1 Futurity Stakes at Belmont Park over eventual champion 2-year-old Dehere.

At 3, he won five grade 1 events—the Travers Stakes, Woodward Stakes, Met Mile, Haskell Invitational, and Florida Derby—and was voted the best 3-year-old that year and named Horse of the Year. In his eight wins during that 3-year-old season, Holy Bull's average Beyer figure was over 115. He retired with an overall record of 13 wins from 16 starts and earnings of $2,481,760 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2001.

At stud, his six individual grade 1 winners include Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo, champion and Breeders Cup Juvenile winner Macho Uno , now a successful sire, in addition to Flashy Bull. Ironically, it was Holy Bull's jockey Mike Smith that guided Giacomo to victory.

Holy Bull's average earnings per starter remains at $65,000, while his career statistics show a 74% lifetime winners to starters ratio. Holy Bull has made a major impact through his daughters that produced over 50 stakes winners, including the likes of Judy The Beauty, Munnings Cairo Prince , unbeaten group 1 winner Caravaggio

Bell also commented, "I'd also like to send out a special thank you to our stallion crew who have taken such good care of him for all these years, especially Phillip Hampton who was with him since 1995."

Holy Bull will be buried at Jonabell.