07/26/2017 3:00PM

Girvin flourishing just in time for Haskell

Barbara D. Livingston
Girvin breezes four furlongs at Saratoga under trainer Joe Sharp on July 16.

Girvin lost a heart-breaking head bob to Irap in the June 24 Ohio Derby, but he has flourished since that race, according to trainer Joe Sharp, and settled in nicely at Saratoga. He’s one of a handful of contenders Sunday in a salty renewal of the Grade 1 Haskell at Monmouth Park.

The Ohio Derby was Girvin’s first start in seven weeks, following the Kentucky Derby. He tracked the pace in the 1 1/8-mile race and then moved up to challenge for the lead nearing the far turn when a horse came up inside him at the same time another advanced to his outside.

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Girvin opened a clear lead in upper stretch, dug in when challenged by Irap – who returned to win the Indiana Derby – but dropped a nose decision on the wire.

“It was a tough beat,” Sharp said. “My hand was forced a little early.”

Sharp believes Girvin, who won the Louisiana Derby and Risen Star at Fair Grounds over the winter, has improved since the Ohio Derby.

“Since the race, he’s seemed like a different horse,” Sharp said. “He’s inflated and more confident.”

Sharp said that if all goes well in the Haskell, Girvin will return Aug. 26 in the Grade 1 Travers at Saratoga.

Girvin developed a quarter crack prior to the Derby, but Sharp said the hoof has healed.

“He’s been back in a full shoe about a month,” Sharp said. “It’s grown out, basically.”

Robby Albarado picks up the mount on Girvin in the Haskell. Mike Smith has ridden him in his last two starts but has a number of high-profile mounts coming up, and Sharp said he wants somebody “who can stick with the horse moving forward.”