02/28/2017 7:48AM

Road to the Derby: Risen Star Stakes analysis

Amanda Hodges Weir/Hodges Photography
Girvin, ridden by Brian Hernandez Jr., wins the Grade 2 Risen Star at Fair Grounds in only his third start.

Grade 2, $400,000 Risen Star Stakes; 1 1/16 miles; Fair Grounds; Feb. 25, 2017
(50 Derby qualifying points for a win, 20 for second, 10 for third, 5 for fourth)

Winner: Girvin, by Tale of Ekati
Trainer: Joe Sharp
Jockey: Brian Hernandez Jr.
Owner: Brad Grady
Beyer Speed Figure: 93

GIRVIN had made just two starts prior to the Risen Star, but talent beat experience, as he stepped up and beat 10 rivals while benefitting from a gorgeous trip under Hernandez, who has set himself up quite well for the next couple of months. He also rides highly regarded McCraken, who won the Sam Davis in his last start.

Girvin was intended for the Lecomte last month, but could not make the race owing to an equine herpesvirus outbreak at Fair Grounds that prevented him from shipping in from a training center to race. By the time that issue was resolved, Girvin was forced to run on the grass on Feb. 4, then come back 21 days later for the Risen Star. Despite that, he won. He has plenty of upside, and the result further calls into the question the overall quality of the Lecomte.

In the Risen Star, Girvin broke from the rail and saved ground while not far off the leaders around the first turn. He waited in a bit of traffic early on the far turn, was able to rally along the rail around the turn and into the lane, surged past LOCAL HERO a furlong out, swapped to his left lead but was quickly corrected by Hernandez, safely held off UNTRAPPED, and galloped out as though he had more to give.

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

Untrapped, who finished second, hugged the rail while following Local Hero around the first turn, split horses on the far turn and was tipped to the three path entering the lane, was out-footed by Girvin heading into the stretch while a bit late to change leads, but resolutely kept to his task through the lane.

Local Hero, who was third, set off for the early lead, but went too fast for his own good in the second quarter-mile of the race (23.32 seconds) while opening up a lengthy lead. He seemed to finally settle for Florent Geroux nearing the three-furlong pole, at which point Geroux sneaked a peak behind him. Local Hero continued to lead around the turn and into the lane, but could not go with the top two in the final furlong. I thought he was his own worst enemy this day.

GUEST SUITE, who was fourth, lacked early speed and was ninth into the first turn while racing in the clear. He gained some ground down the backstretch, went into the far turn three to four paths wide, was deftly angled inside midway on the turn by Robby Albarado to save some ground, was gradually angled to the middle of the track in upper stretch, and finished decently, though he wasn’t really cutting into Girvin’s margin much late in the race. Considering the quick internal fractions, I thought he could have finished up a bit better, but he has continued to improve his Beyer figures in every start.

MO TOWN, who was fifth, showed good speed leaving the gate to take up a stalking position just outside of Local Hero into the first turn. He raced in the clear down the backstretch as Local Hero sprinted away, inched closer around the far turn, but could not keep up with the likes of Girvin and Untrapped in upper stretch, then tired through the lane while swapping leads. The form of the Remsen.

SHAREHOLDER VALUE, who finished sixth, was well back early racing alongside ARKLOW, made up a bit of ground on the far turn, split horses in upper stretch, but couldn’t sustain his rally.

SORRY ERIK, who was seventh, raced toward the back of the pack while three to four paths wide on the first turn, advanced between rivals down the backstretch, was guided four paths wide on the far turn, came into the stretch widest of all, and did not threaten.

Arklow, who was eighth, raced inside Shareholder Value at the rear of the field around the first turn, was taken to the three path on the far turn and came four wide into the lane, but was never in the hunt.

U S OFFICER, who was ninth, raced in the two path while mid-pack around the first turn, saved ground the rest of the way, and never got close.

COOL ARROW, who was 10th, stumbled leaving the gate but quickly was righted and was fourth and in the two path into the first turn, in a good striking position. He stayed in that spot down the backstretch and into the far turn, but was done before reaching the quarter pole and faded while failing to change leads in upper stretch. 

HORSE FLY, who finished last of 11, went into the first turn in the three to four path in fifth place, began to lose ground heading down the backstretch, hastily retreated beginning with three furlongs to go, and was mercifully not persevered with through the lane.