Traffic on the Kentucky Derby trail picks up again Saturday with a full cast of 14 entered in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club, the headlining race on Churchill Downs’ Saturday card.

Tiz the Bomb-KJC
Tiz the Bomb, seen here winning the Castle and Key Bourbon Stakes, is the 3/1 favorite in a deep Kentucky Jockey Club field. (Image: Keeneland)

Up for grabs are 10-4-2-1 Derby qualifying points to the top four finishers, along with another Derby prospect barometer. Keep in mind the last Kentucky Jockey Club participant to win the Derby was Super Saver in 2010.

Regardless, this inconvenient fact hasn’t stopped a Sig-Alert of colts and geldings taking on the 1 1/16-mile test. The Kentucky Jockey Club is one of four stakes on the Twin Spires’ Saturday card. The Grade 2 Golden Rod serves as the counterpart for fillies on the Kentucky Oaks trail. There’s also the ungraded Lively Shively and the Fern Creek.

The expected leader of that Kentucky Jockey Club post-Thanksgiving traffic jam is current 3/1 favorite Tiz the Bomb. We last saw the Kenny McPeek charge “winning” the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf – for pari-mutuel purposes – after actual race winner Modern Games was improperly scratched, but allowed to run for purse winnings.

Tiz the Bomb back on dirt for Kentucky Jockey Club

“Tiz the Bomb was impressive last out at Del Mar after dealing with all the pre-race incidents in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf,” McPeek told Churchill Downs media. “He’s handled really anything we’ve thrown at him so far, so going back to the dirt shouldn’t be a problem for him.”

Prior to that, Tiz the Bomb won his three previous races. That included the Grade 2 Castle and Key Bourbon Stakes at Keeneland in early October. Tiz the Bomb opened Thursday at 20/1 on the Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool 1.

Not much has been a problem for Howling Time (7/2). The Dale Romans charge is unbeaten in two races, dismissing his rivals by 3 ¼ lengths in the Street Sense Stakes, the local prep for this race. That followed a September 1 ½-length debut win where the Not This Time colt came from six lengths back.

Howling Time screams value

“It seems like every race, he keeps improving,” jockey Joe Talamo said. “Dale said he’s doing even better going into this race than the last one. He has the right mind to him. Coming out of a sprint in his first start, he had every right to get tired going two runs for the first time. But he was all class. That’s half the battle right there, especially with a young horse. He sure passed the test.”

Howling Time opened at 20/1 on the KDFW.

Along with Howling Time, one of the other “buzz” colts right now is Classic Causeway (7/2). He opened at 15/1 on the KDFW, even after finishing a tired third as the 9/5 favorite in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity. After winning his debut at Saratoga by 6 ½ lengths and breaking sharply from the gate in the Breeders’ Futurity, expect the Giant’s Causeway colt to do the same here.

Classic Causeway passed gate schooling early

“He’s always been a horse that breaks sharp from the gate,” trainer Brian Lynch said. “We knew that going into the debut, so it really didn’t surprise us he broke on top like he did. But it’s always a pleasant surprise to see them win that impressively. Last out in the Breeders’ Futurity, he was hung wide from the gate and he battled pretty hard on the lead through fast fractions. I thought he gamely hung on for third after the field closed in on him. Going into this start, I’ve been trying to get him to relax a little bit in his training. I’ve worked him behind horses and in company, so he doesn’t have to be on the engine.”

Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club/Churchill Downs

Morning Line (Jockey/Trainer)

  1. Classic Causeway, 7/2 (Joel Rosario/Brian Lynch)
  2. Guntown, 15/1 (Tyler Gaffalione/Steve Asmussen)
  3. Rich Strike, 50/1 (Rafael Bejarano/Eric Reed)
  4. Texas Red Hot, 12/1 (Julien Leparoux/Randy Morse)
  5. Howling Time, 7/2 (Joe Talamo/Dale Romans)
  6. Tiz the Bomb, 3/1 (Brian Hernandez Jr./Kenny McPeek)
  7. Vivar, 12/1 (Florent Geroux/Brad Cox)
  8. Smile Happy, 12/1 (Corey Lanerie/Kenny McPeek)
  9. Red Knobs, 15/1 (Ricardo Santana Jr./Dale Romans)
  10. White Abarrio, 8/1 (Edgard Zayas/Saffie Joseph Jr.)
  11. Ready Pursuit, 50/1 (Martin Garcia/Jerry Antonuik)
  12. Ben Diesel, 15/1 (Jon Court/Dallas Stewart)
  13. Mannix, 20/1 (Edwin Gonzalez/Mark Casse)

Call Me Midnight, 12/1 (Chris Landeros/Keith Desormeaux)

The “other” McPeek in the field also bears watching: Smile Happy (12/1). Unlike Tiz the Bomb and his five races Smile Happy has one race on the resume. But that one race is a 5 ½-length romp in a Keeneland maiden special weight last month. More significantly, that came at 1 1/16 miles, the same distance as the Kentucky Jockey Club.

Smile Happy opened at 50/1 on the KDFW.