With speculation swirling in recent days about the status of Kentucky Derby (G1) points leader Girvin, trainer Joe Sharp told Blood-Horse and Daily Racing Form Thursday that his stable star developed a quarter-crack he’s been managing.
Girvin has worked once since his victory in the April 1 Louisiana Derby (G2), firing a bullet half-mile in :47.80 at Churchill’s Trackside training track on April 15. But a week ago, Sharp moved the Tale of Ekati colt to Keeneland, citing the rainy forecast as the reason to take advantage of the all-weather training track in Lexington.
Yet when Girvin jogged Monday, rather than work as planned, Derby watchers sensed a potential issue. Sharp simply described it as preferring to get one longer work in him this Friday rather than two half-mile works, which again made sense, but the unsettled schedule – and the calling of yet another audible – did little to tamp down the brewing concern.
Daily Racing Form’s Jay Privman performed an admirable bit of sleuthing Wednesday when he noticed, in an Instagram video no less, that Girvin was wearing Z-bar shoes on both front feet earlier in the week. Now it was no longer just a case of reading between lines – here was direct evidence that something was afoot.
After the Blood-Horse’s Alicia Wincze-Hughes reported Thursday that Girvin missed training again, Sharp divulged what he’s been hoping to deal with ahead of Derby 143 – a quarter-crack in the colt’s right front hoof.
“He’s very sound on it now,” Sharp told Wincze-Hughes. “It’s just one of those deals where … we were just monitoring it. And every quarter crack is different. This one threw us for a little bit of a turn and we expected it be routine.”
According to that Blood-Horse story and a report by Daily Racing Form’s Byron King, Girvin has been treated by Dr. Raul Bras at Rood and Riddle, where he got a specially designed bar shoe. He also underwent a series of hyperbaric treatments at the Kentucky Equine Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation Center (KESMARC), and showing improvement, enjoyed swimming there on Thursday.
Sharp told King that Girvin would swim at KESMARC again Friday, and he still plans to work him at Keeneland on Saturday.
“I wouldn’t be trying to get there if I didn’t think we could do it,” Sharp told DRF. “Each day I’m a little more confident we can do it.”
Part of that belief stems from the fact that Girvin readily overcame a quarter-crack in his left hind earlier this year, but as both Blood-Horse and DRF stories recount, this one proved more of an issue than the young trainer first thought.
In other Kentucky Derby news:
Practical Joke is scheduled to work on a busy Friday morning at Churchill Downs, and DRF’s Mike Welsch reports that the Chad Brown trainee will breeze in blinkers. Brown has been contemplating making the equipment change for the Derby.
Trainer Todd Pletcher commented on his plans to send out his army of five – Always Dreaming, Battalion Runner, Patch, Tapwrit, and the “possible” Malagacy – for Friday works.
“I think we may have a window of opportunity tomorrow with the weather,” Pletcher said. “I am looking forward to breezing them and taking a little edge off.”
Other than Always Dreaming, who’s keeping John Velazquez in the saddle, jockey assignments are pending for the Pletcher four. And Malagacy’s status remains in question for the Derby. Unlike his stablemates set for the exclusive training session for Derby/Oaks (G1) runners at 8:30 a.m. EDT, Malagacy will go out before the 8 a.m. renovation break.
Also penciled in to work during Churchill’s special training window on Friday are Gunnevera and State of Honor, while Irap is due to breeze at Keeneland Friday and van to Churchill Saturday or Sunday. Battle of Midway is on course to work six furlongs at Santa Anita Friday.
Champion Classic Empire will get in his serious work at Churchill this weekend. Assistant trainer Norman Casse commented on how the colt’s reuniting with his original exercise rider, Martin Rivera, has helped him return to top form after a rocky Derby trail.
“We went back to step one,” Casse said. “Martin Rivera, who first rode Classic Empire as a baby, got back on him to try and figure out his quirks. We brought Martin with us to Arkansas and, since that worked out, he’s here at Churchill.”
“I’ve worked for the Casses for almost 15 years now,” Rivera said. “We have had a great relationship over that time and I’ve worked all of the babies Mark buys at the sale.
“We’ve been very happy with how well Classic Empire has been doing in his training. He seems like a happy horse here and he gets over the surface great.”
J Boys Echo plans to work on Saturday with his exercise pilot Tammy Fox. Trainer Dale Romans indicated that new jockey Luis Saez will get input from the colt’s regular rider, Robby Albarado, who’s sidelined by injury.
“Robby (Albarado) is going to talk with Luis before the race,” Romans said. “It’s been a tough couple of days and Robby was the first one to tell me he’d talk with Luis about the horse.”
Sunday is circled as the likeliest date for McCraken’s final serious work for the Derby.
Fast and Accurate, currently stabled at Trackside, is expected to head over to Churchill for his Sunday morning breeze.
The latest arrival schedule for Derby horses shipping in from out of state: Battle of Midway and Sonneteer (22nd on the points list) are due in Saturday, fellow Southern Californians Gormley and Royal Mo (23rd on points) will fly in for John Shirreffs on Monday, and Irish War Cry will take the van ride from Maryland either Sunday or Monday.
Globetrotter Thunder Snow is still “tentative” to land in Cincinnati, hit the highway to Louisville, and settle into Churchill on Sunday – if Sheikh Mohammed confirms his participation.
The bubble horses most keenly interested in developments are Lookin at Lee (next in line at number 21), the aforementioned Sonneteer and Royal Mo, Local Hero (24th), Pletcher’s Master Plan (25th), and Petrov (26th).
O’Neill’s Iliad, who was off the list then reinstated at 25th, has once more been withdrawn from consideration. Blood-Horse’s Jeremy Balan reports that retirement is an option, but no further information was available.