Despite winning the Risen Star Stakes (GII) at Fair Grounds a month ago, a bit of a question mark still hung over Brad Grady’s Girvin heading into Saturday’s Louisiana Derby (GI) at Fair Grounds. Was he really a turf runner? Could he get the distance? Was he pace dependent? Was his young trainer capable of getting one ready for the biggest race in the country?
And just like that, the dark bay or brown son of Tale of Ekati answered them all and then some, stamping himself as a legit Kentucky Derby (GI) threat with an impressive 1 ¼-length come-from-behind victory in the $1 million race, picking up 100 points in the process and assuring the world he will be the Southeast’s leading contender for the Run for the Roses in a month. Trained by Joe Sharp, Girvin was again ridden to victory by Brian Hernandez Jr.
“He’s such a talented horse,” Hernandez said. “He puts a lot of confidence in you. Today my biggest thing was when I saw Local Hero settle as well as he did, I wanted to stay behind [him] and give myself a target. Every time I needed him he was there for me. Turning for home, he got to switching leads back and forth, but he was kind of just messing around.”
After the break, Girvin was comfortably settled off the early pace of :23.46, :47 and 1:11.15, which was set by stablemate Hotfoot, while racing out toward the middle of the track. For more than three-quarters of a mile Girven was content to let his frontrunning rival lead the way, his rider waiting patiently for the right time to make a move. As the pacesetter led the field around the far bend, Girvin was, at the same time, asked for his best run and made his way toward the front while in full flight for the lead racing widest of all.
Under a vigorous ride from the top of the stretch, Girvin had reached even terms with the rallying duo of Patch and Local Hero with a furlong left to run and, soon after the latter logged a mile in 1:36.40, Girvin had taken the lead. Despite drifting in just past the sixteenth pole, Girvin finished with good energy, stopping the clock in 1:49.77 for the 1 1/8-mile feature.
“It doesn’t feel bad [to have a Kentucky Derby horse],” Sharp said. “He’s a talented horse. We’re enjoying the ride. It’s great connections and a great owner and it has been a real team effort.”
As the 6-5 wagering favorite in the field of nine, Girvin paid $4.60, $3 and $2.40. Patch held on for second and was worth $5.20 and $3.60 at odds of nearly 9-2. Local Hero was also 9-2 at post time and returned $3.40 when he crossed the wire 1 ¾ lengths behind the runner-up. The exacta was good for $23.80 and the trifecta $42.80.
Hollywood Handsome, Sorry Erik, Senior Investment, Guest Suite, Hotfoot and Monaco rounded out the order of finish.
Girvin has now earned a record of 4-3-1-0, $874,400 thanks to the $600,000 winner’s share of the Louisiana Downs purse. The Kentucky-bred, who is out of the Malibu Moon mare Catch the Moon, was a $140,000 Keeneland September yearling in 2015 and a $130,000 one at Fasig-Tipton Kentucky a month later.