Tiz the Bomb Running For Churchill's Backside Learning Center

Courtesy Brook Smith

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Owner Brook Smith admits that his wager–a $10,000 Derby Future Wager bet on Tiz the Bomb (Hit It a Bomb) at 10-1–was not the smartest bet he's ever made. But that's not the point. The bet was meant to raise awareness for the Backside Learning Center at Churchill Downs and, who knows, perhaps make over $100,000 for an organization that is meeting the many needs of the track's backstretch workers.

Smith, who operates the Rocket Ship Racing, LLC, stable, has been a longtime supporter of the backstretch center and helped spearhead the “Purses For a Purpose” program in which owners donate a percentage of their earnings to the Churchill facility. But he wanted to do more. Inspired by Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale, who is known for his charitable nature and for making large bets on races and sporting events, Smith made the $10,000 bet on Tiz the Bomb, who races Saturday at Gulfstream in the GIII Holy Bull S., in the second round of the Derby Future Wager. Should he win the GI Kentucky Derby, the payoff will be $114,000, all of which Smith will donate to the Backside Learning Center.

“We as Thoroughbred owners are in unique spot,” Smith said. “We need to do everything we can to support the industry and support those that are there in the trenches. That's what is beautiful about racing. Yes, it's nice to win big races once in a while, but it's also going out to the track in the mornings and seeing the dedication and care from these people. It's not an easy life to live on the backside and have young families on the backside. The Backside Learning Center covers a lot of bases for those folks in that community. I was shocked when I heard how small their annual budget was. They are scratching quarters together.”

The Backside Learning Center is just one of several initiatives Smith supports, among them programs that work to better the lives of those living in Appalachia.

The seeds for the bet were planted when McIngvale bet $10,000 on Smile Happy (Runhappy) in the first round of the Derby Future Wager at 8-1. McIngvale chose Smile Happy because he is by Runhappy, who he owned and promotes relentlessly.

Smith does not own any part of Tiz the Bomb, but the colt came onto his radar when he bought Tiz the Bomb's half-sister, Bel Rosso (Free Drop Billy), for $180,000 at last year's Fasig-Tipton Kentucky October Yearlings sale.

“We generally don't spend that kind of money,” he said. “We usually spend in the $100,000 range. But she was just so impressive coming into the ring.”

The more of Tiz the Bomb he saw the more he liked. After winning the Kentucky Downs Juvenile Mile and the GII Bourbon S., he was a fast-closing second in the GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf.

“I do like the horse as a a handicapper, though I won't call myself a handicapper,” he said. “The second-place finish in the Juvenile Turf and the move the horse made was just crazy impressive. I believe he is special.  If he takes to the dirt like I think he is going to, I think we'll be talking about him being one of the Derby favorites after Saturday.”

Like McIngvale, Smith is a bit of a character. His graying hair flows down his back and his inner circle includes celebrities like Emeril Lagasse. He figures if McIngvale can be called “Mattress Mack” he can be called “Bourbon Brook.” He is a part-owner of two bourbon distilleries, Castle & Key Distillery and Barrell Craft Spirits.

“I'm not going to say that I'm Mattress Mack, but I thought 'why let him have all the fun?'” he said.

He has never met McIngvale but says he “wouldn't mind stirring it up” with him.

“If he's back at the betting windows I'll be back at the betting windows too,” he said. “This will not be the last bet like this that I make.”

He'll have a better idea after the Holy Bull if he made a good bet or not.

“The reality is, with any of these horses in the future bets, they all should be 50-1 because one bad step and it's over,” Smith said. “It may seem foolish to bet the kind of money I did on a future wager but I hope it can raise awareness for the Backside Learning Center. And they could wind up getting a lot of money out of this. It is all for a good cause.”

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