July 22, 2024

Girvin launches winning move in Risen Star

Brian Hernandez, Jr. guides Girvin to victory in the 45th running of the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes. Hodges Photography / Lou Hodges, Jr.

Girvin powered to the lead in midstretch and drew clear in Saturday’s $400,000 Risen Star (G2), scoring by two lengths at Fair Grounds. Brian Hernandez Jr. was up on the Joe Sharp-trained colt, who was making only his third career start and first in a Kentucky Derby qualifier.

The 1 1/16-mile Risen Star serves as the first of 16 races in the Championship segment of the Road to the Kentucky Derby series and Girvin jumped to the top of the standings with the 50-point prize. Brad Grady owns the son of Tale of Ekati.

A head winner versus maiden special weight winners in his December 16 career debut at Fair Grounds, Girvin was exiting a close second in the February 4 Keith Gee Memorial on the local turf. Hernandez, regular rider of leading Kentucky Derby contender McCraken, has been up for all three starts.

Girvin broke from the innermost post as the 8-1 fifth choice among 11 runners and saved ground in fifth as Local Hero sprinted clear, completing a quarter-mile mark in :23.70 with a three-length advantage and a half-mile in :47.02 with a six-length edge.

The pacesetter kept going into the far turn but Girvin started to gain ground rounding the bend, about five lengths back after six furlongs in 1:11.98. He found his best stride entering the stretch, accelerating quickly into contention as Hernandez switched hands with the whip, and Girvin took aim on Local Hero, blowing past his tiring rival with more than a sixteenth of a mile remaining.

“The horse did the job for us,” Hernandez said. “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.”

The winner cruised to the wire, stopping the teletimer in 1:43.08 on the fast track. Untrapped, 8-1 after a runner-up in the January 21 Lecomte (G3) at Fair Grounds, offered a solid rally for second on the far outside while never a serious threat to the winner. It was another 2 ¼ lengths back to 3-1 second choice Local Hero, who saved third by a neck over the late rallying Lecomte winner Guest Suite at 7-2.

The $1 million Louisiana Derby (G2) on April 1 is the final Kentucky Derby prep at the New Orleans track and Girvin will be back for the 1 1/8-mile test.

“We believed in the horse all along,” Sharp said. “I lost my voice (from cheering) 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.”

Mo Town, making his first start since winning the Remsen (G2) at Aqueduct in late November, was head-strong in the post parade and eager from the start, racing in second before weakening to fifth as the 3-2 favorite.

Bred in Kentucky Bob Austin and John Witte, Girvin was purchased for $130,000 as a yearling at the 2015 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky October sale. He’s out of the unraced Malibu Moon mare Catch the Moon, dam of Grade 3 winner Cocked and Loaded, a son of Colonel John who was at his best at one-turn distances. Stakes-winning maternal second dam Catch My Fancy is by Yes It’s True, who is best known as a speed sire.

Girvin’s pedigree may not be ideal for longer distances, but he posted a convincing victory making his first two-turn dirt start in the Risen Star.