Girvin Takes Giant Derby Leap With Risen Star Win

Saturday's Fair Grounds card featured four graded stakes, including the Risen Star Stakes (GII) for three-year-olds.

Saturday’s Fair Grounds card featured four graded stakes, including the Risen Star Stakes (GII) for three-year-olds (photo via America’s Best Racing).

Brad Grady’s lightly raced Girvin officially announced himself as a legitimate Triple Crown candidate on Saturday with an impressive two-length score in the $400,000 Risen Star Stakes (GII) at Fair Grounds. The son of Tale of Ekati was ridden by Brian Hernandez Jr. for trainer Joe Sharp and as an 8-1 outsider and rewarded his backers with nice payouts of $18.20, $8.60 and $5.80.

Fellow 8-1 chance Untrapped was easily second, crossing the wire 2 ½ lengths in front of Local Hero, who was 3-1 at post time. Untrapped was worth $8 and $5, while Local Hero paid $4.60. The $2 exacta paid $118.60 and the $1 trifecta returned $279.40.

Guest Suite, the favored Mo Town, Shareholder Value, Sorry Erik, Arklow, U S Officer, Cool Arrow and Horse Fly rounded out the order of finish after the scratches of So Conflated, It’s Your Nickel and Takeoff.

As expected, Local Hero sped right to the lead from the break and led the way through splits of :23.70, :47.02 and 1:11.98 with a clear lead. Girvin, meanwhile, sat well of the early pace and mid-pack, saving ground along the rail, patiently waiting for Hernandez to pull the trigger to make his move for the lead. As the frontrunner led the field around the far turn, Girvin was in full flight and, by the time he’d reached the top of the stretch, he had passed all but one. Soon after, he forged to the front, posting the one-mile split in 1:36.70.

Under a very strong ride right to the wire, the winner stopped the Teletimer in 1:43.08 over a fast main track.

“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.”

“We believed in the horse all along,” Sharp added. “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.”

Girvin was bred in Kentucky by the partnership of John Austin and John Witte and passed through the sales ring twice, selling first for $140,000 as a Keeneland September yearling and, again, a month later across town at Fasig-Tipton October for $130,000. Since then, he’s won two of three starts and finished second in another, and has now earned $274,400. Additionally, he earned 50 valuable Kentucky Derby points, which already puts him squarely in the hunt to make the gate on the first Saturday in May.

Though Sharp didn’t say what was next for Girvin, who is now the young conditioner’s second graded stakes winner, the likely next step is the April 1, $1 million Louisiana Derby (GII).