Coming up roses

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Mine That Bird’s brother from another mother rekindles Holts’ hope of having horse in Derby

By Ben Carlson

When Mine That Bird won Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, David Holt grabbed his wife Dana, picked her up and twirled her around their living room.

No, the Holts didn’t have a big wager on the 50-to-1 longshot Kentucky Derby winner, they have something even better: his brother.

The Holts, owners of Gunsmoke Farm on Nevins Station Road, are the proud owners of Dadisman, a yearling sired by Birdstone, the father of Mine That Bird.

Birdstone rose to fame by winning The Belmont Stakes in 2004, ending Smarty Jones’ hopes of winning horse racing’s elusive Triple Crown.

“When Mine That Bird was coming down the stretch and opened up that lead, we were just screaming,” Dana Holt said Monday morning. “My son [Dylan] was going, ‘Oh my, God. Oh, my God.’ My husband, who usually isn’t very emotional, grabbed me and swung me around. We were just thrilled.”

And for good reason. While not technically brothers — only horses who share the same mothers are brothers — Mine That Bird’s victory adds yet another glimmer of hope that one day the Holts will have a horse in the Kentucky Derby.

That has been the plan since Dadisman was born just more than a year ago. Birdstone, known for his speed, was bred with one of the Holts’ mares, Dana Did It, a one-time Derby hopeful who Dana said was bred for distance and has a heart of a champion.

“Dadisman was bred for the Kentucky Derby,” she said. “Now if we can just put together enough money and he holds together, we’ll see what happens.”

Holding Dadisman together came to mind moments after Saturday’s Derby, sending the prized colt’s value through the barn roof.

Dana said right after the Derby she looked into the pasture behind the family’s home and saw Dadisman and two of his pasture-mates kicking up their heels and having fun.

“The first thing that went through my mind was, ‘Please don’t let him get hurt,’ ” she said. “I said we need to put him in a padded cell.”

Instead of stowing him away, though, the Holts joined him in the pasture he shares with two other fine looking colts and treated him to peppermints and plenty of TLC.

He remained in his pasture Monday morning, wide-eyed and fairly frisky as he and his friends eyed a trio of nearby yearling fillies.

Last year, Dana told The Anderson News she was hopeful that he would be her Derby horse, at the time based solely on his strong lineage.

Birdstone’s sire, Grindstone, won the Derby nine years ago and his grand-sire, Unbridled, took the Run for the Roses in 1990.

“He is the perfect horse,” Dana said at the time. “He is what you look for.”

With Mine That Bird’s victory Saturday, she now knows some of those who questioned her sanity have to be reconsidering Dadisman’s chances.

“People just rolled their eyes, and everyone thought I was nuts,” she said Monday. “But when Mine That Bird won, our phone started ringing off the wall, and our cell phones rang for a good hour.”

All the resulting attention has certainly raised Dadisman’s value, but not nearly enough to have the Holts consider selling him.

“If someone came in an offered us beaucoup bucks, we’d have to sell him because the horse economy is terrible right now,” Dana said. “But I have no intention of selling this colt. He’s going to the Derby if God helps us.”

All the optimism in the world, though, won’t get Dadisman to the Derby in 2011, the year he would be eligible.

That, Dana said, will take a combination of money, training and keeping him healthy.

“We first have to get him broke,” she said. “We also have to find out if he’s good enough and see how he does. We’ll have to take him to a trainer and see what kind of potential he has.”

One reason for optimism is how dominant Dadisman is among his peers. Dana said the trio of colts holds their own playful races in the pasture.

“The other two will get out in front, and Dadisman will just lay back,” she said. “Then all of a sudden he just takes off and leaves the other two in the dust.”

Dana is also realistic and knows getting to the Derby is a long way off.

“He’s bred well enough, but this is a rich man’s game for poor people like me trying to play.”

Dana takes solace, though, in seeing horses like Mine That Bird and other recent Derby winners coming out of nowhere to knock off horses worth millions.

Mine That Bird was first sold for a paltry $9,500 before gaining some credibility and bringing in $400,000 on his next sale.

“Watching him beat all those rich guys’ horses was great,” she said. “He won one for the little guys out here like us.”

The prospects of a Derby entrant, or even a winner, coming out of Anderson County is exciting for Dana, who grew up showing Tennessee walking horses on her family’s farm in Alton.

Especially if that horse belongs to her.

“I have never been to the Derby,” Dana says. “I have always wanted to go, but now, I won’t go unless I have a horse.

“I might be 90 years old when it happens, but I am going to have a Derby horse.”

E-mail Ben Carlson at bcarlson@theandersonnews.com.