Girvin Emerges to Grab 50 Derby Points
By Dick Downey
Girvin, with a crafty ride by Brian Hernandez, Jr., turned it on in the stretch to win the Risen Star Stakes and earn 50 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, vaulting him to the top of the standings.
Local Hero, the 3-1 second betting choice after a runaway maiden win at the track, set the early pace all alone with fractions of 23.70 for the first quarter-mile and 47.02 for the half, at which point he led by six lengths. He was still in front by 3 1/2 lengths after six furlongs in 1:11.98. Mo Town, favored at odds of 3-2, tracked Local Hero in second with Untrapped and Cool Arrow vying for third and fourth part-way down the backstretch.
After breaking from the rail, Girvin began his journey by sitting midpack in the scratch-reduced field of 11. After a quarter-mile he was fifth, six lengths off the pace, and after the first half-mile he was still fifth, but over nine lengths back. At that point, Hernandez started asking Girvin and he advanced to fourth entering the far turn, about five lengths off the lead, while Cool Arrow started to back off.
On the far turn, Hernandez had Girvin down in the two path. Leaving the turn, Hernandez roused him and gave him a couple of pops of the whip left-handed. As heads turned for home Local Hero kept running while Mo Town beat a hasty retreat. Hernandez switched to a right-handed whip as Girvin was switching leads, but at the furlong marker they had caught Local Hero. Girvin extended a half-length lead to a winning margin of two lengths.
Untrapped, still hanging around, stayed a little longer than Local Hero, slipping by him as the finish line loomed to get second place. Local Hero hung on for third, beaten 4 1/4 lengths Guest Suite, who was ninth, 13 lengths in arrears after a half-mile, came up a neck short of getting the show spot.
It was almost another six lengths back to Mo Town, followed by Shareholder Value, Sorry Erik, Arklow, U S Officer, Cool Arrow and Horse Fly. Takeoff, It's Your Nickel and So Conflated scratched.
The 1 1/16 mile was timed in 1:43.08 on a track rated fast. Sent off at 8-1 odds, Girvin returned supporters $18.20 for a $2 wager.
It was only the third career start for the son of Tale of Ekati. After breaking his maiden in his Dec. 16 debut at Fair Grounds, trainer Joe Sharp sharpened him up with a run in the Keith Gee Memorial on turf. He finished second in that race and returned to his preferred surface in the Risen Star.
Steve Asmussen trains the second and third finishers, Untrapped and Local Hero, and they picked up 20 and 10 Kentucky Derby points, respectively. Guest Suite, winner of the LeComte Stakes got five points.
The biggest disappointment of the day by far was Mo Town, who continued a string of failures by runners that competed in last November's Remsen Stakes. He expended valuable energy while warming up under John Velazquez and had little left when it counted.
The winner was bred in Kentucky by Bob Austin and John Witte and is owned by Brad Grady. He's out of Catch the Moon, by Malibu Moon. Girvin was a $140,000 RNA at Keeneland's September 2015 Yearling Sale. He was sold the following month for $130,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Fall 2015 Sale. From the $400,000 Risen Star purse he earned $240,000 to push his total to $274,400.
Girvin's 50 points leads all other Derby contenders. Classic Empire is second with 32 points; Untrapped now has 24; and El Areeb, McCraken and Gormley each have 20.
Meanwhile, Hernandez may have a big choice to make in the coming weeks. He's also the regular jockey for McCraken.
Chart by Equibase
Joe Sharp, trainer of Girvin: “We believed in the horse all along. I lost my voice, and we’re in shock and very excited. He will stay here and probably run in the Louisiana Derby. We’ll let him tell us, but that’s my inclination."
Brian Hernandez, Jr., on board Girvin: “The horse did the job for us. You have to give him the credit. He put us in a good spot the whole way and traveled like a true professional. For a horse to come out and do what he did today in just his third start, that shows what kind of special animal he truly is.”
Ricardo Santana, on board Untrapped: “He had no excuse. He ran his race and he ran hard and maybe got a little tired. He was running long for only the second time, and I was proud of how he ran.”
Florent Geroux, on board Local Hero: “He was a little more keen than I thought he would be. He’s still a little bit immature, but he can move forward from this race. Last time he won so easily, I’m not sure he got too much out of it.”
Neil Howard, trainer of Guest Suite: “I thought he ran well. You can’t win every one.”
Tony Dutrow, trainer of Mo Town: “I thought he broke well and got himself into position and just wasn’t able to maintain it. Johnny’s comments were that the horse was struggling over the surface and never got ahold of it. He felt strongly that it was a surface Mo Town didn’t care for. So, we will see if he was right or not. No disrespect to Fair Grounds’ surface – it’s one of the reasons we came – it just didn’t work out for him today.”
John Velazquez, on board Mo Town: “Perfect trip. I just don’t think my horse was too happy with the surface.”