Tiz the Bomb leads the small group of former Kentucky Derby trail runners who will compete in the Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Derby on Saturday. The list also includes names such as Classic Causeway, Emmanuel and Stolen Base.
The son of Hit It a Bomb moves back to turf for trainer Ken McPeek after mixed results on the Kentucky Derby trail. Why does Tiz the Bomb deserve a more serious look from bettors than former dirt runners Classic Causeway and Emmanuel?
After breaking his maiden on dirt at Ellis Park last year, Tiz the Bomb had a successful run in 2-year-old grass races at the graded-stakes level.
Tiz the Bomb made his turf debut in the Kentucky Downs Juvenile Mile Stakes and won as a mid-pack closer on the unique track configuration.
Afterward, Tiz the Bomb went to Keeneland and won the Bourbon Stakes (G2) by 3/4 of a length after sitting closer to the pace and rallying wide. Another interesting point is that Tiz the Bomb broke through the gate before the race, and horses usually do not perform well after that.
Then in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Del Mar, Tiz the Bomb closed for second and lost by only 1 1/2 lengths to the European invader Modern Games. In the early part of the race, he had minor traffic problems.
When Tiz the Bomb returned as a 3-year-old, the connections decided to take a shot at the Derby trail. During the spring, Tiz the Bomb was a non-factor in dirt races, with a seventh-place finish in the Holy Bull Stakes (G2) and ninth in the Kentucky Derby. Although the Derby is forgivable, his Holy Bull effort was disappointing.
But it is notable that Tiz the Bomb won the John Battaglia Memorial Stakes and Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) over Tawny Port and the eventual Kentucky Derby champion Rich Strike on synthetic at Turfway Park. Usually, synthetic racing caters more to true turf runners than dirt horses.
Given his excellent turf and synthetic form, Tiz the Bomb looks like a serious contender in the Belmont Derby. Although he now faces European invaders this time, he already did in the Breeders’ Cup as well.
Even though Stolen Base was listed above as an ex-Derby trail horse, he never did compete on dirt in the spring. His two attempts at the trail came at Turfway when he closed for second to Tiz the Bomb in the John Battaglia Memorial and finished a disappointing seventh in the Jeff Ruby.
In his most recent start, Stolen Base won the American Turf Stakes (G2) on the Kentucky Derby undercard. Last year, Stolen Base also finished a good second to Tiz the Bomb in the Bourbon Stakes at Keeneland.
Stolen Base deserves respect in the Belmont Derby. Whether he can win or not is debatable. Perhaps he works best as an underneath type.
Now to discuss Classic Causeway and his chances. Unlike his proven stablemate Tiz the Bomb, Classic Causeway makes his turf debut in the Belmont Derby after eight starts on dirt. This move to turf seems odd, especially when he ran well in the Ohio Derby (G3) recently on June 25, finishing third.
Classic Causeway has shown dirt talent as the runner-up in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) last year and winner of the Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) and Tampa Bay Derby (G2). As a son of Giant’s Causeway, it would not come as a complete surprise if he adapted to turf, but he is a risky wild card in terms of betting.
As for Emmanuel, he did make a successful turf debut by winning the Pennine Ridge Stakes (G2) last month after finishing fourth in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) and third in the Blue Grass Stakes (G1).
Emmanuel had a perfect trip in the Pennine Ridge, though, as the uncontested pacesetter through crawling fractions of 25.19, 51.72 and 1:15.91. Furthermore, Emmanuel arguably beat allowance horses in that race, even if it had a Grade 2 designation next to its name.
The step up in class toward the Belmont Derby against Tiz the Bomb and European imports seems too steep for Emmanuel at this point.
Tiz the Bomb’s failures on dirt are puzzling, given that he broke his maiden impressively at Ellis Park last year. Nevertheless, turf racing is the best direction for him right now. Now that his failed Kentucky Derby effort is in the rear-view mirror, Tiz the Bomb might go on to a great turf career.