Can Hofburg be the rare 'buzz' horse that actually wins the Derby?

Can Hofburg be the rare 'buzz' horse that actually wins the Derby?
Hofburg hasn't competed often, but that doesn't mean his Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott doesn't like his chances. (Source: Churchill Downs)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - The morning-line odds next to Hofburg in the Kentucky Derby program this weekend will say 20-1, but there should also be a little notation that says "Bettor Beware."

The runner-up finisher in the Florida Derby in his third-career start has a ton of talent and has Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott pumped about his future, including running in the Derby.

But unfortunately, Hofburg has become the buzz horse on the backside at Churchill Downs.

One railbird on Tuesday morning was overheard saying, "Hofburg looks as good as any horse I've seen training," while another fan said Mott was "telling people he's going to win the Derby."

Even one veteran reporting on the Derby said, "Everywhere I turn, someone is talking about Hofburg. I liked the horse until he became the buzz horse."

And it happens every year.

The Derby is billed as the "Most Exciting Two Minutes In Sports," but in the two weeks leading up to the race it can become "The Most Confusing Two Weeks In Sports."

With 20 horses in the field most years, and hundreds of people on the backside watching all of the entries' every move, there are rumors and wild stories about many of the horses. Everyone wants an angle to try and cash a ticket in the Run for the Roses.

Unfortunately, much of the chatter is just that - rumors.

And there are some memorable failures as buzz horses, including 1993 when the buzz was so intense for Bull InThe Heather that he went from third choice to the favorite after the early betting on Friday at the Downs concluded.

Other horses like Jumron, Eltish, Friesan Fire and Sweetnorthernsaint generated a ton of buzz before the race but finished up the track in the Derby. The latter ended up taking over the favorite's role from eventual winner Barbaro in 2006.

It was Mor Spirit two years ago and Irish War Cry last year. Both bombed in the race.

Now, it's Hofburg's turn to try and shed the buzz title and make it into the winners' circle.

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Mott, who was the all-time winningest trainer at Churchill Downs for more than 20 years until Dale Romans surpassed him last year, debuted Hofburg to a fourth-place finish last fall at Saratoga.

Hofburg spent the next six months away from the track and then broke his maiden at Gulfstream Park in March. Mott, who is typically a little more conservative with his horses, put Hofburg into the Grade I Florida Derby in his next start.

It was another impressive performance, and he proved he's one of the top 3-year-olds in the country. Now, he'll get his shot in the Derby.

"I think this is the best chance I've had," Mott said about winning the Derby.

Yes, it's a strong statement and there are a lot of reasons to like Hofburg. But remember –- bettor beware -– because he's become the buzz horse.

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