Kentucky Derby

Tami Bobo ready for second shot at Kentucky Derby with Simplification

0 Comments

Despite being around horses her entire life, Tami Bobo is in the midst of one of her biggest learning curves to date: managing a Kentucky Derby contender.

As the owner of Simplification, the 3-year-old, Florida-bred bay colt who earned his Derby berth in January by winning the Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes, Bobo admits she didn’t have much Thoroughbred experience. Despite being on a horse at age 2 and showing horses all over the country while growing up in Ocala, Fla., Bobo’s foray into horse racing started just 12 years ago.

However, Bobo has made her livelihood in the horse industry since she was a teenager. She was just 17 when she became a single mother, and she continued riding and showing Arabian horses for a nearby Ocala farm to make ends meet.

When she was able to save money, Bobo would head to the local auction barn and began buying Quarter Horses that most people didn’t want. These “rejects” were considered “problem horses” or horses that weren’t yet broken or fit to ride. She would train and resell them, usually turning a modest profit.

“(Horses) are like humans: We’re not perfect and neither are they,” Bobo told NBC Sports ahead of the 2022 Kentucky Derby. “You learn to live with the imperfection and if you feel that that horse can overcome that imperfection, give that horse a shot.

“That horse doesn’t know that its front legs are little crooked, technically. It didn’t get a memo. That horse knows those are the four legs God gave him, and that’s how that horse goes through life. So, if you don’t create an issue for an animal, chances are, they’re gonna run through it.”

MORE KENTUCKY DERBY NEWS: Lindsay Schanzer makes history as first woman to produce Kentucky Derby telecast

With every resale, Bobo was able to save money and eventually able to buy better quality of horses through the years. By her late 20s, she was able to move into the higher-end Quarter Horse market, eventually showing her horses at places like the Quarter Horse Congress.

The American Quarter Horse Congress, known as the world’s largest single-breed horse show with more than 25,000 entries, was a jumping off point for Bobo, whose entrepreneurial spirit led her to combine her knowledge of horses with web development. Bobo began buying and selling horse-related domain names, developing equine information centers for local businesses.

It was from those earnings that Bobo was able to make the transition in 2010 from Quarter Horses to Thoroughbreds. She struck gold with the first Thoroughbred she bought, Take Charge Indy, a well-bred colt sired by A.P. Indy – the 1992 American Horse of the Year – and successful broodmare Take Charge Lady, whose Grade 1 victories included the Ashland Stakes and Spinster Stakes.

Bobo found Take Charge Indy at the September 2010 Yearling Sale at Keeneland, where he failed to reach the $80,000 reserve price due to a conformation issue and short stride. Bobo believed the colt could overcome his deficiencies over time and seized the opportunity, purchasing the horse privately.

Trained by Patrick Byrne, winner of three Breeders’ Cup races, Take Charge Indy won the Grade 1 Florida Derby by a length under Hall of Fame jockey Calvin Borel. That win earned the colt his spot in the 2012 Kentucky Derby, but Take Charge Indy underwhelmed at Churchill Downs, finishing 19th (out of 20) by 50 lengths.

More disappointing, however, was Bobo’s experience at the Derby, where she and her daughter, Brittney Polite, looked on from the stands after selling to Chuck and Maribeth Sandford.

“I was the working-class girl that brought the horse up to find the wealthy buyer to buy him, and that was my Indy story,” said Bobo. “We didn’t experience any of the Derby (that owners do). We experienced, you know, sitting there together for the day – which is invaluable – and being there, but we had no interaction with the horse, the people, anyone involved.”

Bobo credits her time with Take Charge Indy as invaluable to her development and knowledge within the Thoroughbred industry. And she’s already planning for a very different experience when she and Simplification make their way to Churchill Downs this weekend.

“I want to share anything that I can share with someone,” she said. “So, for me, making a difference in anyone’s life is important to me. So, my family’s coming, my friends are coming, and I just want to enjoy it for what it is, and I just hope that Simplification has a safe trip. And if we’re blessed with anything better, fantastic.”

Since that first Derby trip 10 years ago, Bobo has had multiple graded stakes winners and Grade 1 winners come through her farm in Ocala, called First Finds Farm, which she and her husband Fernando De Jesus purchased in 2016. They run boutique pinhooking operation, purchasing racehorse prospects as foals and nurturing them for resale as yearlings.

“I think what maybe makes our program different than the majority of others, Fernando and I are hands-on daily with these horses,” she explained. “I think being in the barn with these horses for hours on end and just spending the amount of time with them is probably somewhat different than others.”

Simplification was originally bought as a weanling-to-yearling pinhook, however, when the horse showed evidence of sesamoiditis (inflammation of the proximal sesamoid bones, which are in the ankles) Bobo says they opted to keep him.

“Sesamoiditis, to me, is part of growing pains,” said Bobo. “It’s part of Thoroughbred horses. It’s just part of growing. So, I didn’t find it to be significant when we X-rayed the horse to buy him for ourselves. He had it. We were aware, and we didn’t find it to be alarming.”

As for Simplification’s development into a racehorse, Bobo said she relied on her experience and instincts after first impressions also let her to describe the colt as “kind of tough.”

“He had an edge about him, so Fernando and I just decided if this colt can channel this, he might be a heck of racehorse,” Bobo explained. “We just bypassed the 2-year-old sales and decided to take a shot, and we’ve been blessed.”

Regarding the takeaway she hopes people will glean from her story, Bobo believes her journey can serve as an inspiration to others who have similar passion and drive.

“I want people to see that it’s anyone’s game,” she said. “You don’t have to be born with a silver spoon in your mouth to get to the highest places in life. Stay humble, be kind, work hard and you’ll get there.”


How to watch Simplification race at the 2022 Kentucky Derby:

The 2022 Kentucky Derby will air on Saturday, May 7, from noon-2:30 p.m. ET on USA Network and from 2:30-7:30 p.m. ET on NBC. Coverage is also available to stream live on NBCSports.com, the NBC Sports app, and Peacock.

Bianca Belair – the ‘EST of WWE’ – never imagined being a WWE superstar

Bianca Belair raises her championship belt before the start of the match against Sonya Deville during WWE "Raw" in Knoxville, Tenn. on Monday, April 25, 2022.
Saul Young/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK
0 Comments

Ahead of the 2022 Kentucky Derby, On Her Turf caught up with Bianca Belair, who will be attending this year’s ‘Run for the Roses’ at Churchill Downs. The WWE superstar — who is known for making her own ring gear — is fresh off winning her second RAW women’s title. You can watch Belair in action every Monday night on RAW on USA network. 

This Q&A has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity. 


On Her Turf (OHT): How are you doing today?

Bianca Belair: I’m good. Just over here making my Derby hat.

OHT: Will Saturday be your first Kentucky Derby?

Belair: Yes, this will be my first Kentucky Derby. It has always been on the bucket list. My mom loves horses and she’s always wanted to go to the Kentucky Derby. It’s her 60th birthday on May 8, so I actually bought her tickets that I surprised her with so it’s like a bonus. I’m checking it off of my bucket list and I also get to celebrate with my husband (fellow WWE superstar Montez Ford) and my mom on her birthday.

OHT: I know you’re making your own — what’s the right term? Outfit? Costume? — but are you also helping your husband and mom get dressed up for the Derby too?

Belair: My mom’s actually out looking for a dress for herself. But my husband, we always coordinate our outfits on a daily basis so this is right in our ballpark. I’m helping him get his hat together, making his suit, and altering it. So I’m kind of just hands-on with everyone at this moment.

OHT: Can you give us a preview of what your Kentucky Derby hat is going to look like?

Belair: I’m very indecisive so I’m working on three hats… Roses and pearls is the theme at the moment… if I stick with that. Trying to go with a little southern twist.


MORE KENTUCKY DERBY COVERAGE: Tami Bobo ready for second shot at Kentucky Derby with Simplification


OHT: Transitioning to WWE… I know you competed in track and then CrossFit before. I’m curious: What was the biggest surprise for you when you made the switch to WWE?

Belair: For me, the biggest transition was just starting from scratch. I played almost every sport in the book since the age of five: I started in gymnastics and tumbling and then went into track and field, and did cheerleading, basketball, and soccer. And then I ran collegiate track and field; I was a hurdler at the University of Tennessee. I was an all-American hurdler, all-SEC hurdler.

With every sport that I’ve done — even CrossFit and powerlifting — I’ve been able to pull something from each sport (I did before). But with WWE, I walked in not really knowing anything. I didn’t really grow up watching wrestling. I watched when my brother watched it. I never imagined myself being a WWE superstar. So it was really starting from scratch. The athletic and physical part of it came to me very easily and quickly, but it was the performing part of WWE (that was more challenging).

You know, it’s sports entertainment, so you get the best of both worlds. It’s like watching your favorite action-packed, superhero soap opera mixed with an NFL football game. So, for me the most challenging part was just the performance part and learning how to — not just compete — but perform at the same time.

OHT: Even though it’s a performance, it’s obviously still super physical. What does WWE training look like for you?

Belair: It’s very, very demanding physically, probably more demanding than almost any sport that I did. I’m in the gym usually Tuesday through Friday doing cardio training, CrossFit-type of training. And then Saturday through Tuesday is when I’m traveling and having wrestling matches inside the ring. But on those traveling days, I’m still in the gym at eight o’clock in the morning. Then I’m at the show, having a wrestling match at eight o’clock at night, and then I’m driving to the next show until about 2am. And then I’m doing it all over again the next day. So it’s a grind, not just mentally, but physically as well.

Bianca Belair lifts Sonya Deville onto her shoulder before performing her signature move, the K.O.D., during a WWE RAW match in Knoxville, Tenn. on Monday, April 25, 2022. (Photo: Saul Young/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK) 

OHT: I know there’s been an evolution of the way women are portrayed in WWE. What do you hope that people – and especially young people – see when they watch you perform?

Belair: I’m in WWE at an amazing time. Women are really at the forefront and women are the future of WWE. I was able to be a part of WrestleMania 37 where I wrestled our main event with Sasha Banks. We were the first two Black females to ever (be the) main event at WrestleMania.

Women are main-eventing on a weekly basis in WWE… It’s really cool for little girls to see that, but also — I can’t stress this fact (enough) — that it’s even more important for a little boys to see women in that light as well.

So I’m just looking forward to being a part of this legacy that WWE is creating with women, and just being a representation for women and little girls that you can do whatever it is that you want to do, even if it is in a male-dominated space.

OHT: In a lot of women’s sports that I cover, something I often see is while women are able to compete on the big stage, the space and people around them — the coaches, the administrators — are almost all men. I’m curious what the environment around you looks like?

Belair: Yeah, it’s definitely changing. When I first got into WWE, Sara Amato was my coach. She taught me everything that I know and she was such a part of my success. We just recently got Molly Holly, who is a WWE Hall of Famer, and she’s one of the producers now. (There’s also) Stephanie McMahon, who I look up to. She’s just a great example that women do not have to be in a box. You know, she’s a mom, she’s a wife, she’s a boss. And she’s really just a great example for all the women inside the locker room to show what our possibilities are. Our roster is so stacked with a diverse group of women that represent what it means to be a woman in their own personal way.

OHT: You recently won your second RAW women’s title. What do your goals look like moving forward?

Belair: You know, I’ve had a lot of success very quickly in WWE and I’m very grateful for that. I’m the RAW women’s champion, I just defeated Becky Lynch at WrestleMania 38. Right now, I feel like at the forefront of a new generation of women’s wrestling. You have the four horsewomen who came before me: Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch, Sasha Banks and Bayley, who really paved the way and broke barriers for women. They don’t have to go anywhere, just make some room for me. I’ve already defeated three out of the four horsewomen and the only one I haven’t defeated is Charlotte Flair. So I would love to go up against Charlotte Flair and try to conquer her. So that’s really my goal for the future.

And I’m all about just being the absolute best version of myself and showing up authentically me, unapologetically me, and just being representation for women, for women of color. I call myself the “EST of WWE,” which means I’m the strongest the fastest, the roughest, the toughest, the quickest, the greatest, the best.

And, outside the ring, eventually I want to write a book and be in some movies.

OHT: I love it. Thanks so much for taking the time today and enjoy your first Kentucky Derby on Saturday!


Follow Alex Azzi on Twitter @AlexAzziNBC

Lindsay Schanzer makes history as first woman to produce Kentucky Derby telecast

Medina Spirit (8) ridden by jockey John Velazquez rises up in the saddle after winning the 147th Running of the Kentucky Derby.
Getty Images
0 Comments

The Kentucky Derby television broadcast will be produced by a woman for the first time in the 148-year-old history of the race.

Lindsay Schanzer is the new senior producer for NBC Sports’ Derby coverage, overseeing the network’s horse racing production. It’s her 10th Derby but her first running the show as she makes some history.

“When somebody tells you that that’s what it is and that’s what you are, it brings a smile to my face,” Schanzer said. “I didn’t set out to be that. But being the first woman anything is exciting and makes me really proud. … I think horse racing and specifically the Kentucky Derby is really a show for everyone.”

Executive producer and president Sam Flood expects Schanzer to put her own spin on a sporting event that is watched annually by more women than men. Only the Olympics is comparable in that aspect among the network’s major events.

“She’s got the opportunity to bring her own perspective,” Flood said. “We think she’s going to come up with a little bit of a stamp of her own to take this event to one more level.”

Schanzer, 33, also has produced the Preakness and Belmont Stakes. She was in charge of the Preakness last year when Derby winner Medina Spirit tested positive for a substance that was not permitted on race day and had to change gears.

It’s something she was prepared for from previous situations like a 45-minute weather delay at Saratoga and extreme heat at Monmouth that knocked the race out of the entire broadcast window.

“You can never get too comfortable,” Schanzer said. “You never know what’s going to happen the week before, the day before or even moments before a race begins.”

One of the challenges for anyone working the Derby is catering to the casual fan who may have never seen a horse race and the hardcore bettor at the same time. Schanzer said she and others at NBC Sports challenge handicapper Eddie Olczyk to explain the rationale behind his picks while also teaching viewers something about betting in the process.

“What’s really important to me is on this day we’re reaching an audience, many of whom never watched horse racing, so it’s inviting them and also not alienating the audience that watches horse racing throughout the year,” she said. “It’s really important to me to strike that balance and do our best to reach all viewers.”

MORE FROM ON HER TURF: Ash Barty trades tennis for golf, signs up for global exhibition golf series