Girvin sprung the upset on Saturday, tripping out perfectly to win the Risen Star at Fair Grounds and earn 50 Kentucky Derby qualifying points along the way for trainer Joe Sharp.
You can find the video here, though we’re unable to embed – the race isn’t up on YouTube, neither was the LeComte from Fair Grounds in January.
Fractions – 23.70, 47.02, 1:11.98, 1:36.70, 1:43.08 (8.5 furlongs)
Winning Beyer – 94
Winning Margin – 2 lengths
Pace & Flow – The pace in this race was fair enough, but nothing blazing, with Local Hero running off to open a 6 length lead at the half mile pole. He ran fine to hold on to third. The pace of this race was a bit faster than the Rachel Alexandra, two races prior, and finished 1.01 seconds faster. The pace of the Risen Star was .48 seconds slower to the 6 furlong mark than the also-8.5 furlong Mineshaft (G3) for older horses that was .05 seconds faster, though in that race pace-setter Rise Up, who opened a big lead, faded to last.
On The Winner – Girvin received a wonderful ride from Brian Hernandez, Jr. He saved ground on both turns, got a seam at the top of the lane to come through inside of the tiring Mo Town, angled out, and ran down Local Hero. He ran very well, and was a horse that we were wrong about in the preview – we thought he’s be up closer to the pace and might face some potential distance limitations.
The question now becomes where do you rate him among other top Derby contenders. Our answer to that is…we’re skeptical of him as a legitimate Derby contender. He has only three starts, so certainly possesses the right to improve, but he will probably never get a better trip and the 94 speed figure he earned, under the most ideal of circumstances, leaves him with a ways to go. Plus, while most if not all the contenders outside of this race (except the runner-up) have two more preps to run (and improve), he will only run once more, in the Louisiana Derby. Further, while we were a bit skeptical (incorrectly) of his ability even at this distance, our questions remain of him going 10 furlongs.
On the Runner-Up – Untrapped was our pick in this race and he ran pretty well at 8-1. He too, however, received a good trip, stalking from up close, moved up and angled out, and there was a time when it looked like he had a shot, but didn’t finish up as strong as we hoped. He’s headed to the Rebel next time (March 18th), which leaves time for two more starts, but he’ll have to improve as well.
On the Others – In order of finish…
Local Hero ran pretty well, setting the solid pace, but he faded late to third and was beaten 4 1/4 lengths by Girvin. He deserves another chance (this was just his fourth start and second route), but like everyone else in here, has a ways to go before you would consider him a Derby contender.
Guest Suite was a bit of a disappointment. The LeComte winner made a bit of a wide run around the far turn but didn’t have the necessary punch and at this point looks like a nice horse, but one that might be too slow (his career best Beyer figure is 87, earned here).
Mo Town was the race’s big disappointment. The Remsen winner was the latest to disappoint out of that race, and he did so at 8-5. He sat back nicely pressing the pace, but was all done at the quarter pole and offered nothing. He did have a very strong warm-up, and maybe that took some starch out of him, but ultimately he did not run well. You can add his 5th place finish at 8-5 to this group out of the Remsen:
No Dozing (2nd in Remsen) was 6th beaten 10 at 7-2 in the Sam F. Davis.
Takaful (3rd in Remsen) stopped to a walk in the Jerome at even-money.
Win With Pride (4th in Remsen) was 4th beaten 12.5 at 4-1 in the Jerome.
You’re to Blame (5th in Remsen) did come back to win, but won an allowance race at Parx with a lowly 68 Beyer for Chad Brown.
Tale of Slience (6th in Remsen) was 7th beaten 6.75 lengths in a Gulfstream allowance (though he later ran second behind impressive Pletcher runner Malagasy on February 12th).
He’ll go back to the drawing board, but it’s tough to endorse him next time out (I would guess in the Wood Memorial, trying to get his form back over a track on which he has already won – but that is my speculation).
Shareholder Value and Sorry Erik just pick up some pieces and didn’t threaten and the others were non factors.
The bettors made five horses 8-1 or less and they comprised your top five, albeit in nearly the opposite order (5-4-2-3-1).
Overall Take – Our overall take on the Risen Star is that while Girvin ran well to win with a perfect trip, the group of three year olds in Louisiana this year is a cut below what we’ve seen elsewhere. If I trained a good three year old in, say, Florida, and needed Derby points in my last prep, I’d have no trouble shipping into Louisiana to take a shot in the Louisiana Derby on April 1st.
What’s Next (Louisiana) – Last year, the Louisiana Derby was run six weeks before the Kentucky Derby and the week before the Florida Derby, but this year, it’s a week later and the day of the Florida Derby, April 1st. Girvin, Local Hero, and Guest Suite are expected back while Untrapped is off to the Rebel as noted above.
What’s Next (Derby Trail) – The next two Saturdays should provide a lot more clues on the road to Louisville. This week, Irish War Cry, Gunnavera, Takaful, and Practical Joke headline the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream while El Areeb looks to keep rolling as he heads the Gotham at Aqueduct. Then next week, Mastery makes his 3 year old debut for Bob Baffert in the San Felipe while McCraken returns to Oldsmar and Tampa Bay Downs, where he won the Sam F. Davis, to contest the Tampa Bay Derby.