NEW ORLEANS – Brad Grady’s Joe Sharp-trained Girvin showed excellent constitution and acceleration en route to a sharp two-length victory in Saturday’s 45th running of the Grade II $400,000 Risen Star Stakes. Over 1 1/16 miles, the main track 3-year-old-restricted race was the second of three New Orleans stepping stones to the Grade I $2,000,000 Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands at Churchill Downs on May 6 and earned the dark bay colt 50 Kentucky Derby qualification points.
After breaking from the rail post in the 11-horse field, after a trio of scratches, the son of Tale of Ekati sat comfortably mid-pack in fifth as e Five Racing Thoroughbreds’ Steve Asmussen-trained Local Hero carved out fractions of 23.70 seconds for the quarter and 47.02 for the half over the fast track. Roused at the three-eighths by jockey Brian Hernandez, Jr., Girvin swept past the leader in mid-stretch after six furlongs in 1:11.98 and held off Michael Langford’s Asmussen-trained Untrapped, who finished another 2¼ lengths in front of Local Hero. Guest Suite, winner of last month’s Grade III Lecomte Stakes for trainer Neil Howard, finished another neck back in fourth, 5¾ lengths clear of Tony Dutrow-trained 3-2 favorite Mo Town. Girvin stopped the clock in 1:43.08 – the third-fastest Risen Star of the last 20 years – giving Sharp his second graded stakes victory as a trainer.
“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.”
“He had no excuse. He ran his race and he ran hard and maybe got a little tired,” said Ricardo Santana, Jr., who was aboard Untrapped. “He was running long for only the second time and I was proud of how he ran.”
“He was a little more keen than I thought he would be,” jockey Florent Geroux said of Local Hero, the 3-1 second choice in the wagering. “He’s still a little bit immature, but he can move forward from this race. Last time he won so easily, I’m not sure he got too much out of it.”
“I thought he ran well,” Howard said of Guest Suite. “You can’t win every one.”
“Perfect trip,” John Velazquez said of Mo Town. “I just don’t think my horse was too happy with the surface.”
“I thought (Mo Town) broke well and got himself into position and just wasn’t able to maintain it,” Dutrow added. “Johnny’s comments were that the horse was struggling over the surface and never got ahold of it. He felt strongly that it was a surface Mo Town didn’t care for. So, we will see if he was right or not. No disrespect to Fair Grounds’ surface – it’s one of the reasons we came – it just didn’t work out for him today.”
Following Mo Town were Shareholder Value, Sorry Erik, Arklow, U S Officer, Cool Arrow and Horse Fly to complete the running order. It’s Your Nickel, So Conflated and Takeoff were scratched.
Girvin won for the second time in three career starts and annexed his first stakes event after placing in the grassy Keith Gee Memorial just three weeks prior and breaking his maiden over six furlongs at the New Orleans oval on Dec. 16. He earned $240,000 to increase his career bankroll to $274,400.
Girvin returned $18.20, $8.60 and $5.80 at odds of 8-1. Untrapped returned $8 and $5, while Local Hero returned $4.60 to show.