07/30/2017 8:55PM

Girvin surges late for nose victory in Haskell

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Joe Labozzetta/Equi-Photo
Girvin (outside) got his nose in front of McCraken and Practical Joke at the wire in Sunday's Grade 1 Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park.

OCEANPORT, N.J. - The Jim Dandy on Saturday opened the door for newcomers to join the upper echelon of the 3-year-old division, and on Sunday Girvin stepped through it with a dramatic late run to win the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational by a nose over McCraken. It was another half-length back to Practical Joke, who rallied bravely inside of Girvin in the stretch and ended up between horses late.

Girvin, McCraken, and Practical Joke all ran very well in the 1 1/8-mile Haskell, but it is Girvin who stands to move up the most in the 3-year-old rankings. Now a Grade 1 winner for trainer Joe Sharp, Girvin also has a pair of Grade 2 victories to his credit this year, the Louisiana Derby and the Risen Star at Fair Grounds.

His win Sunday, combined with the disappointing efforts by Kentucky Derby and Florida Derby winner Always Dreaming and Preakness winner Cloud Computing in the Jim Dandy on Saturday, is sure to make the next few months interesting.

The Haskell is part of the Breeders' Cup Challenge Series, and Girvin earned a guaranteed fees-paid berth into the BC Classic at Del Mar on Nov. 4.

"We'll see how Girvin is doing before we make any plans, but the timing of the Travers is pretty good," said Sharp, who is based this summer at Saratoga. "The Breeders' Cup also is in our future. The question is whether the 1 1/4 miles is good for Girvin. The way he ran today I'd have to think the Classic is within what he can do."

The Haskell not only had an exciting conclusion, it had a startling beginning as both 19-10 favorite Timeline and Battle of Midway broke slowly from posts 3 and 2, respectively. Battle of Midway quickly recovered under Flavien Prat and shot up the rail to challenge for the lead inside Irish War Cry, who started from post 1.

Jockey Javier Castellano tried to settle Timeline behind the front pair, but he would have none of it and dragged Castellano up into tight quarters on the clubhouse turn. Timeline split horses nearing the backstretch and challenged for the lead outside Battle of Midway. Rajiv Maragh was able to get Irish War Cry to sit off the new pairing.

"He just didn't come out of there," Castellano said. "I tried to get him to relax several times, but he'd never been in that situation before and wanted to go."

After even fractions of 23.93, 47.34, and 1:11.25, Irish War Cry moved up to challenge three wide on the far turn. McCraken, who had raced about eight lengths off the early pace, commenced a strong four-wide bid. Girvin, who raced in last position early under Robby Albarado, began a steady advance on the turn and moved up outside Practical Joke, who had tracked the leading trio in fourth.

Entering the stretch, McCraken and Brian Hernandez Jr. surged to the lead wide and opened up a clear advantage. But Girvin and Practical Joke, who was ridden by Joel Rosario, began to cut into his margin and the top three finishers came together on the wire.

Girvin's nose victory was reminiscent of the narrow loss he suffered to Irap in the June 24 Ohio Derby.

Girvin paid $20.40 to win the Haskell and was timed in 1:48.35.

Irish War Cry finished fourth, beaten 5 1/4 lengths. Timeline, Battle of Midway, and Hence completed the order of finish.

The Haskell was Albarado's first time aboard Girvin in a race.

"At the half-mile pole I took him outside," Albarado said. "McCraken made that big mov,e but Girvn kept his momentum and I just swung him to the outside.

"He's a nice old classic horse and he's coming around at the right time."

Albarado was happy to win the Haskell in his seventh attempt in the race. His previous rides include a third-place finish on Curlin in 2007 and seconds aboard Sky Mesa in 2003 and Touch Tone in 2001.

Girvin is owned by Brad Grady, who was pivotal in launching Sharp's training career in 2014. The $1 million Haskell was the first Grade 1 win for both Sharp and Brady.

Girvin, a son of Tale of Ekati, is named for the tiny west Texas town where Grady's family has a ranch.

"I love Monmouth Park, after today I guess I love it a little more now," Grady said. "Joe and I came here for a stakes a couple of years ago and I told Joe then it was my favorite track. They just roll out the red carpet for you and make you and your family feel at home."

In hindsight, McCraken may have moved a little soon in the Haskell, but the explosiveness he showed was impressive.

"Turning for home he put in a huge run and I thought we might have it but he just couldn’t hold off that other horse," Hernandez said. "It just wasn’t our day but we have to be so proud of our horse."

Practical Joke is now perfect in four one-turn races and winless in five two-turn races. He came close to getting that monkey off his back in the Haskell.

"He fought hard in the stretch," Rosario said. "I thought he was going to get up there between horses but we just missed."