Croll simply stood therewith his family, including Holy Bull, who since being willed to him by supermarket heiress Rachel Carpenter last summer has become virtually a family member. Surrounding the trainer were his wife, Bobbie, his daughter, Nancy, and his 49-year-old son, Billy, Holy Bull's assistant trainer and the person who first spotted the colt's remarkable action at Bonnie Heath Farm in Florida in March 1993. Billy buys a New Jersey lottery ticket for each week of the summer, and this year, when the pot reached $31 million, his 18-year-old son, Toby, asked him where he would go if he won the jackpot. "Nowhere," said Billy. "I've waited all my life for this horse." Toby recites the lineup of Team Croll like this: "The father, the son and the Holy Bull."
Now Holy Bull is in position to become the first horse since Slew O' Gold, in 1983, to win the 3-year-old championship without winning a Triple Crown race or the Breeders" Cup Classic. (Holy Bull is not eligible for the Breeders' Cup due to a clerical error on Croll's part earlier in the year, and Croll says he will not pay the $360,000 supplemental fee that would gain him entry.) The Bull is next scheduled to face Go for Gin along with older horses in the 1⅛-mile Woodward at Belmont Park on Sept. 17. Both Tabasco Cat and Go for Gin will run in the Classic, and no 3-year-old has won the Classic and failed to be named champion of that division. But that will most likely happen this year: Barring a collapse in the Woodward, Holy Bull's litany of success will have him securely at the front of the pack.
More romantically, Holy Bull has for the moment captured the game's imagination. To his alluring speed he has added courage. In the waning light of Saturday evening, Team Croll gathered at Saratoga's stakes barn. Groom Bob Coffey fed Holy Bull carrots and led him about on a shank as Croll watched and a band hammered out oldies in the distance.
It is a dangerous thing to knock at history's door. Croll knows he must do so with caution, and with the knowledge that Holy Bull has much left before him. So he stops to ponder the question when asked whether he is saddling the elusive superstar. "He's pretty close," Croll finally says.
Perhaps it's true that there is no holy land. But frozen in one small moment on Saturday, surely there was a hero.