The Holy Bull Story, Part 1
By Ben Baugh
However, it was one with a lasting impact that touched not only the lives of those who were directly involved, but captured the spirit and imagination of thoroughbred racing fans throughout the nation.
Bonnie and Kim Heath arrived back home in Ocala, Fla., after being at the 1991 January Keeneland Sale. Bonnie made a phone call to his father, Bonnie McCoy Heath, to let him know they were back in town, not knowing what was about to transpire.
The elder Heath and Jackson Curtis Dudley’s D&H Stable campaigned the 1956 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes winner Needles, the first Florida-bred to win the Run for the Roses and the phone call pertained to the younger Heath and his wife taking over the reins of the operation bearing the family name.
“Kim and I had been talking with my dad on and off about running his farm,” said Bonnie Heath III, who acknowledged his father was reticent and certainly not much for small talk and frivolous conversation. “We talked to him for several years about this and kind of forgot about it. When we came back and called him. We’re talking for a second, and he said ‘Let me ask you something, that deal about you and Kim running the farm, do you still want to do it?’”
It had been some time since the Heath couple had given the thought serious consideration.
“I looked across the house at Kim, and I said, ‘I guess so [to his father].’ He said, ‘Good! Be here in the morning.’ He hung up, that’s the way he was, he didn’t say goodbye to anyone. He would just hang up when he was through talking.”
The Birth of a Champion
But that phone call would serve as a harbinger, one so propitious that it would alter their lives forever. It was only four days after the Heaths took on the responsibility of managing the farm that they would begin a sojourn taking them and the world of thoroughbred racing on an unforgettable journey whose historical imprint still resonates powerfully today — one that has created a legacy sure to grow greater with the distance of time.
An extremely tall colt was foaled on Jan. 24, a son of Great Above, out of the broodmare Sharon Brown, whose size at the time, seemed to be the most remarkable quality the future Horse-of-the-Year possessed. Kim Heath had the good fortune of having been there from the beginning, having participated in the foaling of the gray colt.
The Heaths were faced with the challenge of… (more)
Hall of Fame trainer Jimmy Croll with Holy Bull (photo via NY Sun)