GREENFIELD — Arv Holden pulled on mud-caked boots over a pair of worn blue jeans and ambled out to a field on his 100-acre farm. A stud of approximately 20-deep brown thoroughbred horses were out to pasture under the cloudy November sky.
A smile crept to the 76-year-old’s face as he beamed at the animals, knowing he was gazing upon future champions.
“You can’t always tell by the looks of them, but some of those suckers can run like hot cakes,” Holden said with a chuckle.
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Arv Holden and his son, Jay, are not in the business of raising and training horses in the interest of selling to the highest bidder. The Charlottesville residents hold out to win thoroughbred races with the same colts and stallions they bring up themselves.
Holden and his son Jay, 48, work at Holden Thoroughbred & Running Quarter Horse Farm in Greenfield every day raising, breeding and training horses with legendary bloodlines. The Holden family’s colts compete nationwide, but they mostly attend races at the Indiana Grand Racing & Casino in Shelbyville.
“It’s a tough job,” Arv Holden said. “It’s like any other agriculture thing. It’s not a 100 percent guarantee. You’re gambling.”
The Holdens have raised some of Indiana’s finest competitors over the past decade. Their quest to find the world’s strongest racehorses knows no national boundaries.
One of their colts, named Dowsing, was sired by Japan’s renowned racehorse champion, Deep Impact.
Deep Impact’s colts have made approximately $52 million in winnings in the past year, Arv Holden said.
The Holdens also are raising the brother of Winx — an Australian stallion that won 22 consecutive stakes races in 2015 — as well as the grandson and granddaughters of retired Irish champion Galileo, the leading racehorse in Europe.
“We’ve got international bloodlines that we’re breeding here,” Arv Holden said. “Our breeding program is on a worldwide basis.
“We don’t watch racing just around Hancock County. We’re watching racing around the world because we want the best of the best.”
The duo attended 80 races in the past year alone. The majority of their time is spent racing, reading or researching, Jay Holden said. They constantly are on the lookout for world-class thoroughbreds from every major country to see who they may want to add to the family.
“We’re very focused on the pedigrees of our horses, and that kind of leads everything else,” Jay Holden said.
The Holden family relocated to Indiana from Colorado nine years ago. Hoosier races provide stronger competitors than their home state and a superior competitive atmosphere, Jay Holden said.
The Holdens moved to Indiana due to the quality of its state breeding program funded by Indiana Grand Casino, Arv Holden said. Thoroughbred racing is important to the rural development of the state, he added.
“Indiana is a fantastic state for racing,” Jay Holden said. “It’s the best one in the country.”
Since the Holdens both breed and race their horses, their line of work is naturally labor intensive. Daily chores on the Holden farm mostly depend on the season.
In the springtime, a 16-hour day is fairly normal, but Arv Holden enjoys certain days most of all.
“Of course when it’s most exciting is when they’re having babies,” Arv Holden said. “That’s probably my favorite time of year. It’s like getting a new lottery ticket.”
And several of those lottery tickets turn out to have the right numbers.
The annual A.J. Foyt $100,000 stakes race at Indiana Grand last September was won by Rhinestone Romeo, a champion bred and raised by the Holdens.
Another horse, Colonial Colony, was a Grade 1 winner at a stakes race at Churchill Downs. One of their farm’s prize stallions, Victor’s Cry, is currently rated No. 21 in all of North America.
With around 100 mares, stallions and colts on the farm, the Holdens plan to continue crafting champions.
“That’s the whole reason I’m still training,” Arv holden said. “I want to see our babies get the best shot.”