Photo: Hodges Photography/Fair Grounds
The stakes went up in the $400,000 Risen Star, which is the second stop on the Fair Grounds Race Course road to the 2017 Kentucky Derby, and Girvin stepped up to win the mile and a sixteenth grade two to become the first horse to win 50 Derby qualifying points.
Making just his third career start for trainer Joe Sharp, the son of Tale of Ekati, got a perfect ground-saving trip from his regular rider Brian Hernandez Jr. Coming into the Risen Star, Girvin broke his maiden by a head at Fair Grounds in December going six furlongs. Sharp made the interesting decision to send the Brad Grady owned colt into the Feb. 4 Keith Gee Memorial, which was an overnight turf stake going a flat mile at the same New Orleans track. Girvin ran big on that day to get second place money after a very game run from off the pace. All along, Sharp had his eye on the Risen Star and was using that turf stake as a prep race.
Girvin was loaded into the one hole in the starting gate as the 8.10-1 fifth betting choice. When the race began Girvin broke alertly and quickly settled along the rail in fifth place. Local Hero, who took a ton of late money and ended up the 3.10-1 second choice, was hustled to the front by Florent Geroux and they quickly opened up a lead that would reach six-lengths. Mo Town was content to run in second with Untrapped in third. For the first three-quarters little changed among the top three as the fractions went in 23.70, 47.02, and 1:11.98.
At this point Girvin began to pick up the pace and found a very big opening on the inside in which to navigate the final turn. Hitting the stretch Hernandez eased Girvin to the middle of track and they easily took control of the race and drew off to win by two-lengths in 1:43.08. Local Hero could not keep up. Untrapped made a nice move to pick another second place finish as he did in the LeComte last month. Local Hero managed to hang on for third while the LeComte winner, Guest Suite got fourth. The 3-2 favorite Mo Town, who was making his first start of the year after winning the Remsen (G2) in November, came up empty and ended up in fifth.
“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
With the Risen Star victory, the 50 points locks up a spot in the starting gate for Girvin in the Kentucky Derby. The $240,000 winner’s share of the purse upped his career earnings to $274,400 and his record moved to 3: 2-1-0. Untrapped now has a total of 24 Derby points for trainer Steve Asmussen.
Girvin returned very nice mutuels to his supporters; paying $18.20, $8.60, and $5.80 across the board. Untrapped, who was also 8-1, completed the $2 exacta, which returned $118.60. Third place finisher Local Hero completed the $1 trifecta that paid $279.40. The Risen Star was the last leg of an all-stakes 50¢ pick 4, which had no favorites as winners provided a return of $534.40.
“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.”