Risen Star Stakes (G2) winner Girvin has put together past performances that hint at the combination of careful planning and needed adjustments required in Thoroughbred training.
The large son of Tale of Ekati was given time to develop by trainer Joe Sharp before he was sent out for his career debut in December. After going back and forth on starting Brad Grady's runner at one or two turns, Sharp settled on a six-furlong race Dec. 16 at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, where the dark bay colt responded in spectacular fashion.
Girvin raced on or near the lead through swift opening fractions, then displayed competitive fire in edging Excitations by a head. Those two finished 9 1/4 lengths in front of the closest rival.
Girvin was a head back through a quarter mile in :21.87, moved to the lead through a second quarter in :23.85, and just prevailed in a final quarter run in :24.6 (1:10.32 final time). The effort earned a 99 Equibase Speed Figure, and Sharp's pre-race optimism soared to another level after the win.
"I never expected him to show that much speed. We knew he was a nice horse but I think he ran early like that on raw talent because we didn't expect him to be on the lead in those kinds of fractions," the trainer said. "We were very impressed. It was above and beyond what we expected first time out."
After the huge effort, Sharp didn't want to race his talented colt again before the Jan. 21 Lecomte Stakes (G3) at Fair Grounds. He sent him to Evangeline Downs Training Center under the guidance of wife Rosie Napravnik, where he made use of the hyperbaric chamber and quiet environment. But shortly after Girvin shipped from Fair Grounds, the New Orleans track was placed under quarantine because of an equine herpesvirus outbreak, and the horse missed the Lecomte.
With the quarantine lifted in late January, Sharp wanted to get a two-turn race into Girvin. In terms of timing, a one-mile overnight stakes on the Fair Grounds turf fit well. Girvin ran second in the Feb. 4 event.
In hindsight, everything worked out fine. That prep set Girvin up for his Risen Star performance Feb. 25, where he rated fifth early before taking command mid-stretch on his way to a two-length score in the 1 1/16-mile race. Sharp said the time off after the debut proved useful, as Girvin recovered from a minor foot issue.
But during those weeks after the debut, as the trainer waited out the unknowns of a quarantine, he acknowledged anxious days.
"I'm thinking this is the nicest 3-year-old I've ever had my hands on and I might fall victim to the quarantine and I might not make it on the Triple Crown trail," Sharp said. "There was a little anxiety."