Bun Colvin was right.
The longtime horse breeder, owner and trainer had said Heliskier would be special.
"How special?" said Marlene Colvin, Bun's wife of 56 years. "He didn't know. He just told me that he couldn't quite retire just yet because he had better train this colt."
Bun delayed retirement in 2010 to train the less-than-1-year-old colt as his last project, but he passed away Dec. 4 of that year after a heart attack, and before Heliskier debuted.
"It was so sudden," Marlene Colvin said. "There was no indication. Bun was exercising and riding horses at the age of 73."
Heliskier won his debut eight months later at Canterbury Park, and since has four consecutive victories, three this year. On Saturday, the undefeated 3-year-old gelding seeks to go 6-for-6 at Canterbury in the Minnesota Derby -- at a mile and 70 yards, his longest race.
Now owned by Marlene Colvin, Heliskier was Canterbury's champion 2-year-old in 2011. He was sired by Appealing Skier out of Plana Dance, a champion mare for Bud Colvin at Canterbury Park.
Heliskier has been dominant, winning an allowance sprint by 10 1/2 lengths, the Victor S. Myers Stakes by four lengths and the MTA Stallion Laddie by six lengths with Derek Bell in the irons. Heliskier has earned $108,192.
"Bun started riding horses on the farm with his parents when he was like 5 years old, so he had been working with horses for a long time," Marlene said. "He just sensed something when he was riding on Heliskier, I guess. I don't know how else to explain it."
Following Bun's death, Marlene was left owning the colt and six other horses. She parted ways with the horses one by one but decided to temporarily keep the three youngest colts that needed further training.
Mac Robertson, who knew Bun for years, agreed to break down Heliskier to assess the colt's skills and determine whether Heliskier would be able to compete in races.
"Bun would see things through," Robertson said. "He took good care of the horse and trained it regardless of whether the horse was good or not."
Robertson simply trained the horse without pushing it too hard, but he noticed something more. Sure enough, the colt displayed promising qualities.
"He's blessed with speed and a good cardiovascular," Robertson said. "He processes his oxygen well and doesn't get as tired as other horses."
Despite signs of the colt's potential, Marlene contemplated selling Heliskier.
"Before he ever ran in the first race, I had notified the trainer and told him that if anyone was interested, the horses were for sale," she said. "But as it worked out, they did well."
Heliskier's success has meant a great deal to Marlene, especially since the colt continues to prove her late husband's prediction correct. She's glad she decided to keep the colt. Heliskier serves as one of the many memories of Bun Colvin.
"Watching the colt gave me something to look forward to in the last year and a half," Marlene said.