Brad Grady’s Girvin, who once was a leader in the sophomore division after winning two key preps in Louisiana before logging a dismal 13th-place finish in the May 6 Kentucky Derby (GI), returned to the winner’s circle in fine fashion on Sunday capturing the $1 million Haskell Invitational (GI) at Monmouth Park in an impressive last-to-first performance in the 1 1/8-mile feature.
Under new jockey Robby Albarado, Girvin was content to sit in the back, well off the early pace of :23.93, :47.34, 1:11.25 and 1:36.65 set by the dueling duo of Battle of Midway and Timeline, with favored Irish War Cry chasing along the rail, about a length off the early pace.
As the front runners rounded the bend for home, Girvin took flight from the back of the pack and was picking off rivals with each sixteenth of a mile. First, it was Hence after a half-mile; then, it was a badly tiring Timeline and Battle of Midway; then, it was Practical Joke and, with a furlong left to run, only a rallying McCraken and Irish War Cry remained to get past.
Under a stiff ride from Albarado, while racing closer toward the center of the track, Girvin dug in deeply and was able to just get past McCraken by a nose at the wire while still holding the hard-trying Practical Joke safe in third. The final time for the fast main track test was 1:48.35 under a main track labeled “fast”.
Irish War Cry, Timeline, Battle of Midway and Hence completed the order of finish.
“We talked about it in the paddock,” Albarado said. “And we were all on the same page. We thought the three horses to the inside would be the speed. [Girvin] started to settle into his stride on the backside. I just tried to get him to the outside and keep up his momentum.”
Girvin, at odds of more than 9-1, was worth $20.40, $9.20 and $4.80. McCracken closed off the $154.80 exacta at odds of 7-1 and returned $7.20 and $4.40. Practical Joke paid $3.80 and the $1 trifecta was good for $316.90.
Girvin, who is a Kentucky-bred son of the Malibu Moon mare Catch the Moon, was a $140,000 Keeneland September yearling in 2015 before selling for $130,000 as a Fasig-Tipton Kentucky fall yearling a month later. From seven career starts, he’s reached the winner’s circle four times and finished second twice, earning $1,574,400. In addition to the Haskell, he won the Risen Star Stakes (GII) and Louisiana Derby (GII), and was second in the Ohio Derby (GII) last out.
“Brad [owner Grady] and I talked after the Kentucky Derby,” Sharp said. “And we thought it was right by Girvin to give him a freshening. We thought the Ohio Derby was a good spot for him and close to home [Churchill Downs]. From his effort there, we thought he deserved a shot in the Haskell. He was such a confident horse today.”