April 22, 2024

Surprises over, Girvin now wears the target in TwinSpires.com Louisiana Derby

Brian Hernandez, Jr. guides Girvin to victory in the 45th running of the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes. Hodges Photography / Lou Hodges, Jr.

Girvin has turned in two mildly surprising victories at Fair Grounds this winter, but won’t be catching anyone off guard if he manages a third in Saturday’s $1 million TwinSpires.com Louisiana Derby (G2). The annual highlight of the racing season in New Orleans, the 1 1/8-mile Louisiana Derby will reward Kentucky Derby (G1) eligibility points of 100-40-20-10 to the top four finishers.

Already possessing 50 Derby points following an 8-1 upset of last month’s Risen Star (G2), Girvin will look to add to that total while enhancing his credentials for the Churchill Downs classic. Trained by Joe Sharp, the son of Tale of Ekati enjoyed a ground-saving trip in the Risen Star and rallied to win by two lengths under Brian Hernandez Jr., who is also the regular rider of Derby contender McCraken. The victory by Girvin followed a 9-1 debut score going six furlongs in mid-December, and a narrow loss in the $50,000 Keith Gee Memorial on the turf earlier in February.

Girvin has eight rivals on Saturday, with Local Hero potentially the most dangerous. Well backed in the Risen Star off a 7 1/4-lenth maiden win, Local Hero sprinted clear early and led by as much as six lengths before he was reeled in by Girvin and eventual runner-up Untrapped. Local Hero again appears to be a danger on the front end, but Sharp and owner Brad Grady have entered the non-Triple Crown nominated Hotfoot as a likely rabbit or pace-presser to ensure Girvin will have a chance of catching up with Local Hero.

Another who would benefit from a contested pace is Guest Suite, who landed the Lecomte (G3) in the mud January 21, but could only rally for fourth in the Risen Star after falling 13 lengths off the pace. The Neil Howard trainee has turned in two bullet five-furlong works ahead of this heat.

Trainer Todd Pletcher has won the Louisiana Derby three times, most recently with Revolutionary in 2013. The more fancied of his two entries here is Patch, who broke his maiden at second asking going a mile at Gulfstream on February 18. Pletcher trainees have won the Tampa Bay Derby (G2), Rebel (G2), and Southwest (G3) this Derby prep season, while owner Calumet Farm already has Sunland Derby (G3) winner Hence penciled in for the Kentucky Derby.

The Louisiana Derby field is rounded out by Oaklawn allowance winner Senior Investment and the longshot pair of Hollywood Handsome, Monaco, and Sorry Erik.

The 11th race on a marathon 15-race card Saturday, the Louisiana Derby can be viewed and wagered on the sponsoring TwinSpires.com. Free Brisnet Past Performances will be available here this week.