A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Jeff Ruby Steaks winner Tiz the Bomb’s versatility put to test in Saturday’s 148th Kentucky Derby

Tiz the Bomb during a race at Turfway Park. (Photo by Coady Photography/Turfway Park, via kentuckyderby.com)

By Jessie Oswald
NKyTribune contributor

Hopes, dreams and even charity are riding on Tiz the Bomb in this Saturday’s $3 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve at Churchill Downs.

Should the Kenny McPeek trainee be the first across the wire in the 1¼-mile test for 3-year-olds, the win would not only give the colt his first grade-one victory, but it would give McPeek his first Kentucky Derby win after six failed attempts.

“Any horse that makes a million dollars the way he’s done it up to now, this horse has every bit of a chance,” said McPeek with a chuckle when asked why Tiz the Bomb could be the one to give the trainer his elusive Derby win.

Bred by Spendthrift Farm, Tiz the Bomb is the leading standout in the second crop of runners by 2015 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner Hit It a Bomb. He’s earned $1,044,401 in his short career and garnered five wins in eight starts. Like his sire, Tiz the Bomb has excelled on the turf, taking the Kentucky Downs Juvenile Mile Stakes and Keeneland’s Castle & Key Bourbon Stakes on the grass before ending his 2-year-old campaign with a second-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Del Mar.

Tiz the Bomb (Photo by Coady Photography, via Kentuckyderby.com)

Returning to the dirt for the first time since breaking his maiden over Ellis Park’s main track, Tiz the Bomb finished a paltry seventh out of nine runners in the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park to mark the start of his sophomore season. He quickly bounced back in the John Battaglia Memorial Stakes over the Tapeta synthetic surface at Turfway Park, holding off Stolen Base by a Neck. He followed it with another win at Turfway in the Jeff Ruby Steaks, commanding a 2 ¼-length victory over runner-up Tawny Port.

“Tiz the Bomb is a total pro,” said McPeek after the horse’s recent work at Churchill Downs. “He’s a horse that I think we may lay a little closer to the pace because he’ll have less adversity, which he struggled with in Florida (Feb. 5 Holy Bull Stakes), but he’s done well since then and with two wins back-to-back, he’s pretty high on himself right now.”

Tiz the Bomb’s versatility to perform over any track surface makes him stand out in the 20-horse Kentucky Derby field, but not in a good way. Doubters have pegged him a turf horse with little chance to win on the dirt. McPeek claims the poor performance on the dirt in the Holy Bull was positioning, not the surface.

“It’s not the surface that he didn’t handle, it’s the kickback,” explained McPeek. “The sand got to hitting him in the face at Gulfstream and he kind of got disoriented and never leveled out and settled in.”

Tiz the Bomb will break from the middle of the crowded Kentucky Derby pack, out of post nine, with jockey Brian Hernandez, Jr. to pilot him clear of trouble.

“You let him run to the first turn and hope that he has a clean trip,” said McPeek. “If he has a clean trip, he has a better shot. If he has what I call a trip that gives him a lot of adversity, he’s going to have a hard time winning.”

If Tiz the Bomb does overcome any adversity and is successful Saturday he would become the first winner of Turfway Park’s John Battaglia Memorial to wear the garland of roses and only the third to win the Jeff Ruby Steaks, previously known as the Spiral Stakes, to advance to victory in the Kentucky Derby.

John Battaglia, the former general manager of Latonia Race Track (now Turfway Park) created the Spiral Stakes in 1972 as a Kentucky Derby prep race with the thought that horses could “spiral up” to the Kentucky Derby. John passed away long before he could see Lil E. Tee spiral up to a Derby win in 1992 or Animal Kingdom in 2011 and no horse in the 40 runnings of the John Battaglia Memorial has catapulted to a Derby win.

John’s son and Kentucky Derby oddsmaker Mike Battaglia rated Tiz the Bomb at odds of 30-1 on the morning line, but that doesn’t mean he’s not a fan of the bay colt

“I know I’m rooting for him,” said Mike Battaglia. “I would love to see a horse that won my dad’s race win the Kentucky Derby, I think that would be great, but he’s going to have to step it up a notch. This is really a tough field this year.”

Tiz the Bomb also has a fan in bourbon distillery owner Brook Smith, who owns a half-sister to Tiz the Bomb, Bel Rosso. Smith wagered $10,000 on Tiz the Bomb in the Derby Future Wager Pool 2 and pledged the expected payout of $114,000 to the Backside Learning Center, a non-profit organization based on the backside of Churchill Downs racetrack.

Yes, there’s a lot riding on Tiz the Bomb this Saturday.

Related Posts

Leave a Comment