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3-time Kentucky Derby horse owner says 'humble beginning' catapulted her to 'sport of kings': 'American Dream'

Tami Bobo, the owner of Kentucky Derby horse Catalytic, told Fox News Digital the key to having a third horse make it to Churchill Downs is to "never overlook the less fortunate."

Tami Bobo, partial owner of Catalytic, one of the horses running in the 150th Kentucky Derby on Saturday, explained to Fox News Digital how her "humble beginnings" ensured that she "never overlooked the less fortunate" – whether that be horses or people – a quality she credits for enabling her to catapult into what's considered the "sport of kings." 

For the successful thoroughbred owner, breeder and pinhooker, it will be the third time Bobo has a horse running at the prestigious Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. Her previous horse to make it to the Derby, Simplification, placed fourth in 2022. Her first-ever horse to run at Churchill Downs, Take Charge Indy, placed third at the Derby in 2012. 

Bobo, who has been in the thoroughbred business for over a decade, said it is her "God-given talent" and "that inner instinct in me that tells me that is the horse." 

She purchased Take Charge Indy for a mere $80,000, "an absolute minor investment into the industry" of thoroughbreds, Bobo said, because the horse had been overlooked for being a "little cow-hocked." Bobo purchased Simplification for $75,000, another bargain price, and despite some vetting issues, "that wasn't going to prevent him from being the racehorse that he could be if he truly had that talent and that heart which he has shown us he has." This time around, Catalytic was auctioned at Saratoga, an elite sale in New York, where the top 100-120 thoroughbred racehorses in the world are hand chosen to go to. 

A colt at the time, Catalytic had "thick profiling tendons," something some interested buyers dismissed as potentially being a sign of a prior injury. However, Bobo opted to have an ultrasound done that showed the tendons "matched perfectly and aesthetically" and had no signs of tears or lesions, attributing the thickening of the tendons to "growing pains." 

Catalytic was purchased for just $125,000 and "now he competes with the world's best where people have paid $1.8 million, $1.6 million, $2 million, $3 million," Bobo told Fox News Digital. "You know some of these horses syndicate for $20-25 million. So these numbers are not unrealistic. It's all in what a person feels that animal is worth and what the next person's willing to pay." 


"Coming from such humble beginnings, I have never overlooked the less fortunate, whether that be a human or a horse," Bobo said, explaining "little conformation defects" can be fixed in surgery or through training. 

"The rich man wants the perfect horse. And for me, I'm a firm believer that these horses are made the way God made them," she said. "And in my experience, from years of buying horses that people didn't want, I believe that's probably what I had had my eyes open to appreciate these horses and be able to know what I felt that I could overcome from a training standpoint with these horses." 

"The reality is that minor imperfections in horses and humans, it's just who we all are," Bobo added. "And I think if you give people and horses a chance to prove who they are, these horses that are born to run and born to be Saturday two-turn horses, they show up whether they're cow-hocked or back at the knee or pigeon-toed. Those are not imperfections that are going to stop these horses." 

"These are not issues that prevent them from having their God-given talents to perform at the Kentucky Derby on Saturday. Take Charge Indy was a horse – beautifully bred, beautiful pedigree. Any wealthy person in the world would have bought Take Charge Indy. But collectively, the marketplace dictated that he wasn't worthy," she said. "He wasn't perfect when you looked at him. That's why he was overlooked."

Once a young single mother, Bobo said she started buying and selling auction barn horses out of local sale barns for "a very modest profit," and also offered riding lessons to make ends meet. She eventually entered the Quarter Horse industry and realized while traveling on the road to show horses – and with the advent of the Internet – that there was a need to develop a database of available veterinarians nearby who could provide the animals with the care they needed. It was through developing that online "equine information center" that Bobo said she eventually afforded to enter into the thoroughbred industry. 

Only approximately 20,000 to 30,000 racehorses are born a year, and just 20 of those racehorses qualify and prove themselves to get an invitation to the Kentucky Derby, Bobo said. She buys about 25 racehorses a year from weanling to yearling and yearling to 2-year-old pinhooks. Being in the thoroughbred business for about 12 years now, three of those horses have made it to the gates of Churchill Downs.  


"God has blessed me so many times, in so many ways, and enabled me other opportunities to be able to go back, in 2022 with Simplification, as an owner and be able to enjoy that experience. And it was tremendous, with him and the walk over and my granddaughter and family, it's just such a wonderful experience, I think, for people, fans and families to see that the American Dream can be achieved by anyone," Bobo told Fox News Digital. "And it really isn't how much money you have and who you are. If you work hard, and you try in life, and you don't give up, anyone can achieve these goals." 

As a pinhooker, Bobo said she buys a horse with a six, eight or 10 month return on investment, as a rule of thumb, in the weanling to yearling market. Those horses then live on her farm in Ocala, Florida, for approximately 10 months, and they are bought at a public auction, and they are resold at a public auction. 

"Horse racing is for the wealthy people. As a rule of thumb, it's very expensive," she said, as it costs about $3,500 to $5,000 a month to keep a horse in training. 

"As a rule of thumb," Bobo said, she usually does not partner in owning a horse, but she made an exception upon meeting Julie Davies, now another partial owner of Catalytic, in the back room at Saratoga. Bobo said she was "impressed that she also found this horse in the barn, and she also had done her due diligence" and wanting to support a fellow woman in the industry. That was how their "friendship and venture all began." The two took Catalytic back to Davies' farm after the Saratoga sale for further training before offering him at public auction again in Ocala, where he "previewed himself extremely well," Bobo said. 

"He had a lot of talent and probably had the heart of a racehorse… And Catalytic has just catapulted himself in that direction consistently. He's just class. And that's something you can't buy in horses. You cannot buy class. They either have a great mindset, they take it in and they enjoy it. Catalytic is truly a jewel when it comes to class," Bobo said. 

"We did have some decent offers come in on Catalytic. But prior to the Derby and for me, I decided to sit still and just enjoy the horse and enjoy the ride again," Bobo said. "Catalytic going into the gates of Kentucky Derby, depending on how he finishes and how he runs, for me, I'm blessed and thankful for this opportunity and I feel like we're all winners going in and we just for me, I just want the horse to have a safe trip and come out of the race well, to live and go on to another day and race and enjoy the sport and enjoy the ownership of having a horse like him." 

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