05/12/2005 11:00PM

Giacomo stirs up interest in Holy Bull

Since Holy Bull entered stud in 1995, he has produced a juvenile champ and a Derby winner.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - If you're ever at a Kentucky Derby party and get to playing pedigree trivia, there's a new answer to the question: "What is the oldest Kentucky Derby winner's male line that has produced a modern winner of the race?"

Thanks to Holy Bull's son Giacomo, the answer is the male line of Plaudit, winner of the 1898 Kentucky Derby and the 10th generation sire in the male line of all Holy Bull's offspring.

Plaudit represents one of two branches of his sire Himyar, who ran second as the heavy favorite in the 1878 Kentucky Derby. The other line from Himyar came through the stallion's great son Domino, whose line exists today only through Broad Brush and his sons.

The Plaudit male line is not more widespread, with Holy Bull being the only nationally prominent stallion descending from Plaudit.

A gray son of Great Above and the Al Hattab mare Sharon Brown, Holy Bull was a tremendous racehorse. Unbeaten in four starts at 2, Holy Bull defeated champion Dehere in the Futurity, and Holy Bull progressed so well, with victories in the Florida Derby and Blue Grass at 3, that he was favored in the 1994 Kentucky Derby.

Holy Bull finished 12th in the Derby, but he was not beaten through the rest of the year. He bounced back to win the Metropolitan Handicap against older horses, as well as the Dwyer, Travers, Haskell, and Woodward.

Elected Horse of the Year for 1994, Holy Bull made only two starts the next year at 4, winning the Olympic Handicap and being injured in the Donn, which forced his retirement. Holy Bull entered stud in the spring of 1995 at Jonabell Farm.

At the time of his retirement, one of Holy Bull's primary attractions for breeders, in addition to his outstanding racing class, was his potential as an outcross for all the most fashionable lines today. Holy Bull has no Northern Dancer, Raise a Native, Bold Ruler, or Hail to Reason in his pedigree, and a mating with Set Them Free, by Hail to Reason's son Stop the Music, produced Giacomo, the Kentucky Derby winner.

Since going to stud at Jonabell, Holy Bull has proven himself a solid sire of horses with a variety of aptitudes. His best offspring range from high-quality 2-year-olds (champion juvenile Macho Uno and Grade 1 winner Confessional) to sprinters (Grade 1 winner Pohave) and now a classic winner in Giacomo. That range of abilities in itself is a significant triumph.

An imposing horse with very good balance, Holy Bull tends to sire horses of similar type, and the stallion's growthy, well-balanced yearlings found favor with buyers at the sales, particularly in his early crops.

Although demand for Holy Bull's yearlings at the sales had declined somewhat recently, the success of Giacomo will help to restore commercial confidence in the stallion.

Three days after the Derby, Dan Pride, director of stallion operations for Darley at Jonabell, said that the Derby victory "has increased interest in the stallion over the last 48 hours. Holy Bull had 88 mares booked prior to Saturday, and we're right at 100 now. There isn't a large pool of mares without bookings at this time of year, but the ones who aren't committed at this point will have the opportunity of breeding under the same terms as prior to the Derby: $15,000 when the foal stands and nurses."

With a Frizette winner (Confessional) in his first crop and a Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner (Macho Uno) in his third, Holy Bull was getting the right sort of horses from his early crops. In terms of the hypercritical commercial market, however, "he has gotten a lot of good horses but without getting a marquee horse," Pride said. "Unlike a lot of sires with high rankings due to one big money winner, Holy Bull ranked 36th on the 2003 general sire list but was the highest-ranked sire with his biggest money winner having earned the least toward his total."

While flying just a bit under the radar screen of commercial celebrity, "the stallion has done well in a number of key categories: number of runners, number of winners, average earnings per runner," Pride said.

Holy Bull's qualities - including a balance of speed and stamina - are producing solid racehorses, and they are staying in training and winning races. The 8-year-old Estimraar is a stakes winner again this year in the United Arab Emirates, and 7-year-old Pohave won the Grade 1 Triple Bend last year.

With breeders' interest in Holy Bull on the rise, Pride said he believes that Giacomo is the first of many more good-class runners from the stallion.

"The matings for foals of 2002, which includes Giacomo, were made on the heels of Macho Uno's victory in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, and Holy Bull had a great start in 2005, with three stakes winners before this weekend," Pride said.