It's never a bad thing to have backup going into the Kentucky Derby (G1). Jockey Brian Hernandez Jr., the regular rider of the undefeated Derby candidate McCraken, now has some after guiding Girvin to an 8-1 upset in Saturday's $400,000 Risen Star (G2) at Fair Grounds.
The 8-1 fifth choice in a field of 11, Girvin was a ground-saving fifth through the opening half-mile. Improving his position on the turn, Girvin advanced to second in upper stretch, caught long-time leader Local Hero before the furlong pole and drew off to win by two lengths.
"He traveled like a true professional," Hernandez said. "He's got a lot of athletic ability."
Owned by Brad Grady and trained by Joe Sharp, Girvin completed 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.08 and paid $18.20.
Untrapped rallied to finish second by 2 1/4 lengths over Local Hero, who had a neck on Lecomte (G3) winner Guest Suite. Mo Town, the 3-2 favorite, was aggressive in the pre-race warm-up and finished fifth.
The Risen Star was the first Kentucky Derby prep in the "Championship Series" that awards Derby qualifying points of 50-20-10-5 to the top four finishers. By virtue of this win, Girvin sits atop the leader board with 50 points.
This was the third career start for Girvin, who won on debut by a head going six furlongs at Fair Grounds on December 16. He prepped for this with a closing second in the $50,000 Keith Gee Memorial at about one mile on the turf.
"We believed in the horse all along. We're in shock," Sharp said.
When asked whether Girvin would be back for the April 1 Louisiana Derby (G2), Sharp said: "We'll let the horse tell us, but that would be my inclination."
Bred in Kentucky by Bob Austin and John Witte, Girvin is by Tale of Ekati and the Malibu Moon mare Catch the Moon, making him a half-brother to Grade 3 winner Cocked and Loaded.
A $130,000 Fasig-Tipton October yearling buy, Girvin has now earned $274,400.
(Amanda Hodges Weir/Hodges Photography)