06/21/2007 11:00PM

As a sire, Holy Bull rules Churchill


LEXINGTON, Ky. - The great white shark of American breeding has struck again. Holy Bull, Horse of the Year in 1994 when he won the Metropolitan Handicap, Travers, and Woodward, has sired a champion juvenile, a Kentucky Derby winner, and on Saturday had the winner of the Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs in Flashy Bull.

Interestingly, all three of those Grade 1 victories came at Churchill Downs, the scene of Holy Bull's major debacle in the Kentucky Derby, when the gray son of Great Above displaced his soft palate and lost all chance in the 10-furlong classic.

Although the loss in the Derby was wrenching, the big colt and his owner-trainer, Jimmy Croll, came back, and Holy Bull proved himself the best of the year with victories over older horses and his best contemporaries from eight to 10 furlongs in some of the most exciting races of the year.

Yet after his retirement to stud, Holy Bull faced a different set of questions and

different requirements for success.

Even with his tremendous talent, many breeders looked at Holy Bull's thoroughly unconventional pedigree and walked away. They didn't know what to make of a very fast racehorse by the useful sire Great Above and out of the good broodmare Sharon Browne.

When Holy Bull went to stud at Jonabell Farm, the name in the horse's pedigree that was the most recognizable to Kentucky breeders was his broodmare sire, Al Hattab, who descends from the great classic line of Swynford and his son Blandford through the English Derby winner Mahmoud.

Holy Bull's male line descends from Kentucky Derby winner Plaudit to Holy Bull's great-grandsire Rough'n Tumble (winner of the Santa Anita Derby and sire of Dr. Fager), grandsire Minnesota Mac, and good sprinter Great Above.

The latter is out of champion sprinter Ta Wee, a half-sister to Dr. Fager.

So it is not unimaginable that Holy Bull combines some of the best qualities of Dr. Fager, the 1968 Horse of the Year. Both were very fast horses who could sprint and who could carry their speed up to 10 furlongs.

Both are also big horses, not pure sprinters in physical type. They are not too heavy-bodied or too short-legged. Instead, both stand over a lot of ground and were able to run so fast because of that. They had good stride length while racing and, even more important, the power to maintain their stride length furlong after furlong and not tire.

In addition to his physical attributes and undoubted racing class, Holy Bull - like his famous relative - is a startling opportunity for outcrossing. While given plenty of lip service as a means of improving the vigor and durability of the breed, outcrossing is not widely used in Thoroughbred breeding,

partly because there are precious few truly good sources for it.

This is due to the dominance of the Northern Dancer and Raise a Native lines, and also to the fact that both stallions trace to the same source: the great English stallion Phalaris. He is the source of the Northern Dancer, Hail to Reason, and Nasrullah lines through Nearco, the Raise a Native line through Sickle, and the Buckpasser line through Pharamond.

But Holy Bull is not only a solid outcross for the overwhelmingly successful lines of Phalaris, but also a high-quality sire who has proven that he can succeed with mares from these lines.

His Grade 1 winner Confessional is out of a mare by Green Dancer (by Northern Dancer's champion son Nijinsky). Turnofthecentury is out of a Greinton mare from the Nijinsky branch of the Northern Dancer line, and Woke Up Dreamin is out of a mare by Storm Cat (by the Northern Dancer stallion Storm Bird and inbred to Northern Dancer through the dam).

Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo is out of a mare by Stop the Music (by Hail to Reason), champion Macho Uno is out of a mare from the Blushing Groom branch of Nasrullah (like Flashy Bull), and Pohave is out of an Alydar mare.

The avenues of greatest success with Holy Bull are coming with outcrosses to bloodstock possessing traits similar to his own best qualities. Most are good-sized to big athletes that showed good speed.

For instance, Flashy Bull is out of the Mt. Livermore mare Iridescence, a winner on the racetrack and a $150,000 purchase at the Keeneland April sale of 2-year-olds in training. The good-looking mare won twice at sprint distances.

Jerry and Liz Squyres bred Flashy Bull in Kentucky. The breeders sold the gray colt for $85,000 at the Keeneland September yearling auction. He was pinhooked as a juvenile for $205,000, and he has won 5 races from 18 starts for earnings of $829,313.