Holy cow! Holy Bull bulldozes field

March 13, 1994|By Los Angeles Times

HALLANDALE, Fla. -- A year ago, Bull Inthe Heather won the Florida Derby, then ran eighth in the Kentucky Derby. He hasn't won since that victory at Gulfstream Park.

Holy Bull -- no relation to Bull Inthe Heather -- looks more like the genuine article. His 5 3/4 -length victory yesterday in the $500,000 Florida Derby was one of the most convincing in the 43-year history of the stake, making owner-trainer Jimmy Croll's colt the new early favorite for the Kentucky Derby.

Before yesterday's race, the 74-year-old trainer said that Holy Bull wouldn't be a Kentucky Derby candidate until he showed that he belonged in a 1 1/4 -mile race. The Florida Derby was one-eighth of a mile shorter than the Kentucky Derby distance, but Holy Bull gave no signs of stopping, opening up a comfortable lead and out-finishing 13 others to reach the wire in 1 minute, 47 2/5 seconds, fastest time for the race since Alydar's 1:47 in 1978. The only bigger winning margin in the Florida Derby was Plugged Nickle's six-length victory in 1980.

Go For Gin, expected to make a serious run at Holy Bull through the stretch, was no match and finished fourth, beaten by almost seven lengths.

"I had a strong suspicion that no one would go out there and run with Holy Bull early," said Jerry Bailey, who rode Go For Gin. "But even if somebody did, I don't think that anybody would have beaten him."

Ride The Rails finished second, a nose in front of Halo's Image. After Go For Gin in fourth place came Amathos, Rocky's Halo, Robannier, Crary, Dramatic Gold, Lahint, Fabulous Frolic, Lynn's Notebook, Mr. Angel and Line Dance. Holy Bull, ridden by Mike Smith, was the favorite until late in the betting, then paid $7.40 as the second choice with the entry of Go For Gin and Crary going off as the 2-1 favorite.

Holy Bull's sixth victory in seven starts increased his earnings to $680,760. In his only defeat, a last-place finish in the Fountain of Youth Stakes here three weeks ago, Croll said the colt had a breathing problem. Croll made some minor adjustments with Holy Bull's noseband, bit and tongue tie for yesterday's race.

Holy Bull is a son of Great Above out of Sharon Brown, an Al Hattab mare. That breeding was supposed to produce a good grass horse, but Holy Bull started winning on dirt, and everybody forgot about the breeding objective. Owner Rachel Carpenter, suffering from lung cancer, was 78 when she died last August, several hours before Holy Bull made a winning debut in a maiden race at Monmouth Park. Carpenter, who had raced horses with Croll for 37 years, left Holy Bull and seven other horses to Croll.

Before he runs in the Kentucky Derby on May 7, Holy Bull will have to clear one more hurdle, the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 16. Nick Zito, who trains Go For Gin and Crary, had planed to split up his horses, running Go For Gin in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct and Crary in the Blue Grass, but now he's planning to run both in the Wood.

"Holy Bull's a quality horse," Zito said. "If you throw out the Fountain of Youth for the reason Jimmy Croll said, he's really undefeated."

Holy Bull, ridden by Mike Smith, set the fractions of 22 2/5, 46 and 1:10.

"This was the real Holy Bull," said Smith, who rode two others stakes winners on the card. "He could have gone an extra eighth of a mile today with no problem. We didn't steal this race. He ran in race-horse time. He just put those others away."

Despite a bad No. 13 post, Bailey was able to break Go For Gin sharply and had him in good position, in fifth place, in the first turn. Halo's Image and Ride The Rails did what little chasing there was of Holy Bull in the early part of the race.

"My horse started running going down the backside," Bailey said. "But they were going too fast in front of us."

The mile was run in a fast 1:34 4/5. Smith never used his whip through the stretch. Once, with about a sixteenth of a mile left, he looked back to see if there were any challengers. There was no one in sight.

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