What Girvin's Risen Star Win Taught Us About the Kentucky Derby

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TwinSpires Staff

March 2nd, 2017

Girvin wins the Risen Star Stakes (Amanda Hodges Weir/Hodges Photography)

Connecting the dots of what Girvin revealed to us about the Kentucky Derby picture by winning the Risen Star Stakes

by Alastair Bull

SETTING: The first of the championship races, with 50 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby leaderboard available to the winner, looked an open affair, with Remsen Stakes (G2) winner Mo Town the favorite. LeComte Stakes (G3) winner Guest Suite and runner-up Untrapped returned to face a drier track, though punters observing Fair Grounds form poured more money on last-start maiden winner Local Hero, like Untrapped from the Steve Asmussen stable. Girvin switched from turf after finishing second in the Keith Gee Memorial Overnight Stakes.

FACTORS OF NOTE: Mo Town looked to have the best record but the Remsen Stakes hadn’t proved to be a great form guide this year, with Remsen minor placegetters No Dozing and Takaful failing to impress in their first 3-year-old races.

BETTING: Mo Town moved in sharply from 7-2 morning line odds to start 3-2 favorite. Guest Suite (6-1 to 7-2), Untrapped (10-1 to 8-1) and Local Hero (4-1 to 3-1) all firmed, while Girvin (6-1 to 8-1) was a drifter.

CHANGING BETS: The biggest influence here for punters would be which form line they believed in. With doubts about the Remsen Stakes form and little clarity about the various Fair Grounds form lines, it presented a significant challenge. Punters also had to decide whether Guest Suite and Untrapped would be as effective as they were in muddy conditions in the LeComte.

THE RACE: Local Hero bounded to a significant lead early on, with Mo Town the nearest pursuer, ahead of Untrapped, Cool Arrow and Girvin. Untrapped and Girvin made headway near the turn, and in the stretch Girvin accelerated nicely to race clear. Untrapped held second well from Local Hero, with Guest Suite making ground late to just miss third. Mo Town showed little in the stretch to finish fifth.

REACTION: “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.” – jockey Brian Hernandez Jr.

PEDIGREE: Girvin is from the third crop of Darby Dan Farm resident sire Tale of Ekati, whose five wins included two grade I races, the Wood Memorial and the Cigar Mile. Tale of Ekati’s best performers to date are the multiple graded stakes-winning filly Ekati’s Phaeton and the 2015 Preakness Stakes runner-up Tale of Verve. Girvin is the second foal of the Malibu Moon mare Catch the Moon: the first is the Iroquois Stakes (G3) winner Cocked and Loaded. Tale of Ekati was probably best at a mile, and though Girvin ran out the 1-1/16 miles of the Risen Star Stakes strongly, on pedigree there must be some doubts about his ability to stay 1-1/4 miles in the Derby.

KENTUCKY DERBY IMPACT: Girvin moved to the head of the Road to the Kentucky Derby leaderboard with his 50 points, all but securing a Derby start. Untrapped earned 20 points, moving to third on the list on 24 points. Local Hero made his first appearance on the leaderboard with his 10 points, while Guest Suite’s five points for fourth puts him on 15 points and seventh place.

NEXT START: Girvin is likely to return to Fair Grounds for the Louisiana Derby. Untrapped and Local Hero may also return, but Mo Town will probably seek another venue to further his Derby prospects – trainer Tony Dutrow said the horse’s jockey John Velazquez felt strongly that Mo Town didn’t care for the Fair Grounds surface.

TRIPLE CROWN TAKEAWAYS: Girvin showed an impressive turn of foot to get past Local Hero and hold off Untrapped in what was the third-fastest Risen Star Stakes in the past 20 years, but it’s arguable the race clouded the Triple Crown picture rather than clarified it. Betting on the Kentucky Derby Future Wager over the weekend suggested punters don’t rate the form highly; Guest Suite and Mo Town both drifted, but so did the “all others” option, which the first three horses fell under.

SOUTHWEST STAKES: Connecting the Kentucky Derby Dots with One Liner