Bubba Grump
Bubba Grump won an allowance race January 7. Photo by Coady Photography.

Although his career began roughly one year after owner-breeder O’Sullivan Farms had hoped, Bubba Grump is rapidly making up for lost time. After downing allowance foes January 7, the five-year-old has won two straight, the first a graduation win in a maiden special weight event for West Virginia-breds Decmeber 19.

The five-year-old son of Successful Appeal out of Shesagrumptoo, by Luftikus, is a full brother to the stakes winner Grumpelstiltskin. He didn’t make a start until September of his sophomore season and did not graduate until the closing night of the 2020 racing season at Charles Town.

Bubba Grump began his career in trainer Jeff Runco’s barn and finished a modest fourth in his career debut September 7, 2019. But he was diagnosed with a knee chip after that race, which put a stop sign in front of his nascent career. As it happened, it would also end up requiring a move to a new barn, that of Javier Contreras.

“When he came out that first race with a knee chip, we didn’t want to just stop with him,” said John Funkhouser of O’Sullivan Farms and the current President of the West Virginia Thoroughbred Breeders Association. “We elected to have the surgery and give him time to recover. He came back really good, but Jeff told us he just didn’t have any room in his barn for him. So, he recommended we send him to Javier, and that’s what we did, and Javier has done a great job with him. He gave him the time he needed and he was really good both starts.”

Both the move to Contreras, perhaps best known locally for his work with multiple graded stakes winner Late Night Pow Wow, and the belated start to his career may prove beneficial to his connections in the long run.

Roughly 15 months after running fourth in his career debut, Bubba Grump prevailed easily as the even-money choice in 52.26 seconds in a one-turn maiden special weight dash on Dec. 19, 2020. He came right back to score – by 5 ½ lengths — on Jan. 7 as the 3-10 favorite in 52.27.

Top local pilot Arnaldo Bocachica was in the irons for both scores.

Like Contreras, O’Sullivan Farms is no stranger to success in West Virginia-bred races. The Funkhousers’ family operation has produced millionaire Confucius Say and the talented Julie B, who earned over $880,000.

“I think he’s eventually going to stretch out, but for the time being I think he will be really tough in the one-turn stakes,” Funkhouser said of Bubba Grump. “You know like they say, it it ain’t broke don’t fix it. But I will leave that up to Javier. He’s great at knowing when and where to run his horses.”

For his part, Contreras has saddled over 720 winners with earnings of nearly $12 million in his career. Bubba Grump could soon join his growing list of stakes winners. Contreras has won 22 stakes, two graded, since 2000.

Bocachica, who’s ridden Bubba Grump to his two recent wins, is a fixture on the Charles Town leader board. With 17 wins through January 22, he’s already grabbed a big lead in the ’21 meet.

Bocachica is also on the threshold of another milestone, now less than 40 winners shy of reaching the 2,000-win plateau in his career, and he is just over 500 starts from reaching 10,000 lifetime mounts.

Meanwhile, Bubba Grump has plenty of options: stretch out, come back sprinting. Allowances for state-breds and for open company. And plenty of time before state-bred stakes competition kicks off in mid-April.

“There will probably be another race for him in late January or early February,” Funkhouser said. “I’ve been real happy with the way he’s come back. I’m glad we had the surgery. I always liked Grumpelstiltskin and I thought we owed it to Bubba Grump to give him a chance to show us what he could do.”