Two works or one work; such was the quandary and the central question bouncing around Joe Sharp’s brain these last few days as the serious countdown to Kentucky Derby 143 is in full swing here in the Bluegrass.
The works were for Girvin, winner of the Risen Star Stakes and Louisiana Derby in his last two starts and points leader for the May 6 Kentucky Derby. The son of Tale Of Ekati arrived in Lexington late last week to finish his serious work for the Kentucky Derby. One bit of that training was expected Monday morning, with a workout planned for Girvin after the break but ultimately scrapped in favor of a roughly 2-mile jog on the main track.
“We just decided we are probably going to work him Friday,” Sharp said at about 8:35 a.m. and around the time Girvin would have breezed. “Just one solid stiff work going into the Derby instead of trying to squeeze two half-miles in him. Probably five-eighths or three-quarters (of a mile) eight days out from the Derby.”
Sharp’s decision to not work Girvin wasn’t a classic bait and switch move that old-school horseman often pulled on inquisitive members of the media in advance of a big race, yet it did throw a few folks off guard. The few members of the media on hand for the move watched as Girvin and retired jockey Rosie Napravnik, Sharp’s wife, and Sharp on the pony come off the track a little after 7:45 a.m., then dutifully followed the pair on the short walk through the barn area.
Well after Girvin came back to Barn 18 near the back walking ring behind the Keeneland sales pavilion a small group of other onlookers turned up, hoping to watch the dark bay colt work for just the second time since his April 1 Louisiana Derby victory. One asked if “the big horse” was going in the next set, only to be told he merely jogged. Instead they got the chance to snap some up-close photos while Girvin enjoyed a short bath and a long walk under the tall trees.
Sharp came and went on his golf cart while Girvin cooled out, tending to the training of the other horses in his Keeneland string.
Girvin originally joined the group at Keeneland because Sharp was concerned about rain in the forecast for the Louisville area last weekend and because of the availability of the synthetic training track in the event that wet weather rolled into town. Girvin trained on the training track Saturday and got his first feel for the main track Sunday.
“I just like the facility here,” Sharp said of his decision to ship Girvin from Churchill’s Trackside Training Center to Keeneland. “He’s able to graze, it’s quiet, it’s more horse friendly here. You don’t know there’s a Derby going on here. It’s quiet and we have two tracks to utilize, the synthetic and the main track. Like I said just being able to graze every day is huge. It’s just a different feel here than Churchill.”
Girvin will remain at Keeneland for as long as possible, Sharp said, indicating he’d adhere to Churchill Downs’ security protocol and get the colt to Louisville within the mandatory 72-hour period before the race but most likely no sooner.
“That’s my plan as of now,” he said. “We’ll go when they make us; we have to be there like 72 hours out so we’ll go then. We’ll go as late as possible.”
Girvin breezed a half-mile in a bullet :47.80 April 15 at Trackside in his only timed move since the Louisiana Derby. Currently sitting atop the Derby standings with 150 points – 100 for the Louisiana Derby and 50 for the Grade 2 Risen Star Feb. 25 – Girvin is 3-for-4 lifetime with all his races at Fair Grounds.
Owned by Brad Grady and purchased as a yearling for $130,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky October sale, Girvin didn’t make it to the races until mid-December and won a 6-furlong maiden race New Orleans. He suffered his only defeat in his next start in early February, finishing second to Cowboy Culture in the Keith Gee Memorial Overnight Stakes going 1 mile on the grass. Stretched out to 1 1/16 miles and back on the dirt for the Risen Star, Girvin put himself in the Derby picture with a 2-length victory over Untrapped and a field that included several other classic hopefuls.
Girvin would be Grady and Sharp’s first Derby starter. Sharp does have experience in the historic race as an assistant to Mike Maker, including helping his former boss send out General A Rod, Harry’s Holiday and Vicar’s In Trouble in the 2014 edition.