04/03/2017 3:38PM

Road to the Derby: Louisiana Derby analysis

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Hodges Photography / Lou Hodges Jr.
Girvin wins the Louisiana Derby under Brian Hernandez Jr.

Grade 2, $1 million Louisiana Derby; 1 1/8 miles; Fair Grounds; April 1, 2017
(100 Derby qualifying points for a win, 40 for second, 20 for third, 10 for fourth)

Winner: Girvin, by Tale of Ekati
Trainer: Joe Sharp
Jockey: Brian Hernandez Jr.
Owner: Brad Grady
Beyer Speed Figure: 91

GIRVIN followed up his Risen Star victory with a win here to run his record to 3 for 4. He is unbeaten in all three of his starts on dirt, including two at two turns. He is a hard-knocking, thoroughly admirable colt.

But in terms of the Kentucky Derby, I’m still on the fence. There’s no denying his fortitude, as he swept the same two stakes that Gun Runner did a year ago; that’s good company. But I honestly thought he’d run faster in this race than he did. He did not have ideal preparation going into the Risen Star, in which he received a 93 Beyer Speed Figure. This fig was a tick below that. Considering his ideal preparation into this race, I thought he’d make a leap forward.

There’s always the distinct possibility that leap forward will come at Churchill Downs, that he merely did what he needed to do here. The $130,000 yearling purchase has done quite well for himself in only four starts – banking $874,400 -- but I think he’s going to need to do better to wear the roses.

In the Louisiana Derby, Girvin settled mid-pack, in about the two or three path, around the first turn as his stablemate HOTFOOT carved out sharp fractions. Girvin closed on the leaders on the far turn while three to four paths wide, was asked for his best coming into the lane, finally got past LOCAL HERO inside the sixteenth pole, drifted to his left through the lane, and swapped over to his left lead nearing the finish while holding safe PATCH. He had a very clean trip.

Patch, who finished second, bumped slightly with HOLLYWOOD HANDSOME leaving the gate, hugged the rail around the first turn while inside Girvin, continued to save ground down the backstretch and around the far turn, had to go around tiring stablemate MONACO near the quarter pole, was slightly late to change leads, ducked back to the inside after Hotfoot yielded, and kept to his task while under heavy pressure. This was an encouraging effort for only his third start. He earned 40 points from this, which should assure him a spot in the Derby field, but a more prudent move with this lightly raced, green colt might be to await the Belmont and prep in something like the Peter Pan. He’s by a Belmont winner and out of a mare who is by a Belmont winner.

Local Hero, who was third, broke sharply and then was rated in third as Hotfoot sped to the front. He was in an ideal stalking position down the backstretch and into the far turn, ranged up three paths wide on the far turn, took the lead heading into the lane, but tired in deep stretch and barely held third. It just doesn’t look like he wants to run this far, as he had a tremendous trip that gave him his best chance to get 1 1/8 miles. He has 30 points toward a Derby berth, which could get him in, but something like the Pat Day Mile seems a far more realistic spot.

:: ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays, and analysis

Hollywood Handsome, who was fourth, bumped with Patch leaving the gate, lacked speed, per usual, and raced near the back of the pack along the rail around the first turn. He was taken wide into the far turn and started in the three path before being fanned about six wide heading into the lane, then made steady progress through the lane and just missed third.

SORRY ERIK, who was fifth, bumped with GUEST SUITE leaving the gate, raced behind and outside Girvin entering the first turn, made some progress down the backstretch, went into the far turn about four paths wide, was right on Girvin’s hip in upper stretch, but wasn’t good enough.

SENIOR INVESTMENT, who was sixth, raced towards the rear of the pack while saving ground around the first turn, continued to save ground the rest of the way, sucked out of a spot late on the far turn, made a mild run in upper stretch, but couldn’t sustain his bid.

Guest Suite, who was seventh, bumped with Sorry Erik at the start, trailed while between horses while in the two path on the first turn, remained well back down the backstretch, was gradually angled to the four path entering the lane, was in a bit of traffic in upper stretch, but lacked the rally he had shown in prior starts.

Hotfoot, who was eighth, was sent along aggressively to act as a pacemaker for Girvin, and did that job well. He crossed over from his outside stall and secured the lead and the rail into the first turn, set quick fractions, led for the first seven furlongs, was passed by Local Hero entering the lane, then emptied out in the final furlong.

Monaco, who finished last of nine, showed good speed leaving the gate, allowed Hotfoot to cross over and take the lead into the first turn, settled into second at that point, chased from there until midway on the far turn, was asked in earnest, but began to weaken before reaching the quarter pole, and faded through the lane.