Kentucky Derby Maiden Watch: Bus Buzz, Demolition Duke impress

February 6th, 2023

Santa Anita… Fair Grounds… Gulfstream Park… Oaklawn Park… Tampa Bay Downs. Possible Kentucky Derby (G1) contenders won maiden special weights at racetracks all around the country last week.

We’ll begin with a tip of the hat to Bus Buzz, a gelding who obliterated his debut against California-bred rivals on Saturday at Santa Anita. The outcome of the six-furlong contest was never really in doubt; Bus Buzz led by a minimum of three lengths at every call, setting intense fractions of :21.47 and :43.97 on his way to victory by eight lengths in 1:09.70.

You might assume Bus Buzz is destined for a sprinting career, but as a son of Belmont (G1) runner-up and Travers (G1) winner Stay Thirsty, his pedigree holds some promise for stretching out in distance. This Steve Knapp trainee might be something special.

Much the same can be said of Demolition Duke, who was clearly best in a six-furlong dash on Sunday at Fair Grounds. As a son of Kentucky Derby runner-up Good Magic out of a mare by Belmont winner Empire Maker, Demolition Duke is bred top and bottom to thrive running long. But in defiance of his pedigree, Demolition Duke rallied boldly after a slow start to win his debut by three lengths.

Demolition Duke dashed his final furlong in about :12.36 (a solid clocking) to stop the timer in 1:11.90. His final time wasn’t overly fast, but the strong finish indicates this Brad Cox trainee has a bright future.

Down in Florida, Game Change broke through with authority in a 1 1/16-mile heat on Wednesday at Gulfstream Park. The son of Candy Ride failed to crack the trifecta in three starts as a juvenile, but jumped forward significantly in his sophomore debut, tracking splits of :23.81, :47.49, and 1:11.78 before drawing clear in the final furlong to score by 3 1/4 lengths in 1:44.73. Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey (who won the 2013 Kentucky Derby with Orb) conditions the evidently late-maturing bay colt.

On Saturday at Tampa Bay Downs, Reinvest debuted in a six-furlong contest and charged home from behind fractions of :22.68 and :46.14 to prevail by one length in 1:11.24. The son of Quality Road is a half-sibling to Whitney (G1) and Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) winner Diversify, so it’s safe to say this Timothy Hamm trainee is bred to improve with distance and maturity.

We’ll wrap up by highlighting a couple of noteworthy results from Oaklawn Park. On Friday, Backside Buzz delivered victory in a six-furlong sprint, settling in sixth place behind quick splits of :21.91 and :46.25 before rallying in the final furlong to score by 2 1/4 lengths in 1:11.56. The Thomas Vance trainee was beaten in his first nine starts, including a couple of maiden claimers, but the son of Connect took a step in the right direction last week and may be on the rise.

The same might be true for Backside Buzz’s Vance-trained stablemate Funny Uncle. The former claimer went 0-for-5 to start his career, but finished with determination to win a one-mile maiden special weight last Saturday. Tracking modest fractions of :23.16, :47.61, and 1:13.51 left the son of Distorted Humor with enough gas in the tank to sprint the final furlong in :12.82 and prevail by half a length. Funny Uncle completed the race in 1:39.74 over a good track and looks to be progressing favorably.