Trainer Joe Sharp had a front-row seat and an expert opinion confirming that Risen Star Stakes (G2) winner Girvin bounced out of his breakout victory as good as he could ask.
With Sharp on workmate Cool Arrow and his wife, former jockey Rosie Napravnik, at the helm of the stable's newest big horse, Girvin turned in first move since his two-length win in the Feb. 25 Risen Star and he covered a half-mile in :49 at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots March 11.
From his vantage point aboard Cool Arrow—who worked on the outside— Sharp had the ideal perspective as Girvin finished up his move with a gallop out that left Napravnik raving.
"Girvin galloped out great and we couldn't have been happier for a first work back," Sharp said. "He came back, cooled out great, (and) scoped clean. Rosie was very happy with the work and I was equally happy being alongside him."
The timbre of Sharp's voice Saturday morning was equally bright—if not a more clear—than when he stood in the Fair Grounds winner's circle last month, his vocal chords hoarse from cheering home the colt who thrust his barn into the Road to the Kentucky Derby picture. Keeping his emotions in check is one of the intangibles Sharp absorbed during his time as an assistant to Mike Maker before going out on his own in 2014. Watching Brad Grady's Girvin ascent in just three starts has happily put that learned behavior to the test.
In his maiden outing going six furlongs at Fair Grounds Dec. 16, Girvin displayed raw speed when he prevailed on the front end. In both the Risen Star and his first two-turn try Feb. 4, when he ran second going a mile on turf, the son of Tale of Ekati showed he could rate without issue and still finish with authority.
"That's one of the things we were discussing yesterday, is he's sprinted on the dirt, he's gone long on the grass for us, and on the dirt. He's pretty much done everything we've needed him to do and then some," Sharp said. "As the races get tougher and the fields get larger, the more versatile and pliable a horse can be, the more advantage they have in being able to overcome obstacles and difficult situations in races. And that's ultimately what ends up winning races that are the nature of the Derby and any kind of big race.
"Basically (the Risen Star) got us excited and let us know that he's ready for pretty much anything we throw at him. And he's talented enough to handle it."
A start in the $1 million Louisiana Derby (G2) April 1 would be the next obstacle for Girvin to clear, and Sharp isn't taking any stepping stone along the way for granted. Though this is the first time he's been on the path toward the first Saturday in May on his own, Sharp is drawing on some past lessons to make sure he doesn't trip himself or his charge up along the way.
"It's just a matter of not getting excited about it until you get there and just kind of keeping your nose to the grindstone. It's day to day," Sharp said. "That's one thing (Maker) was always very level about—his emotions. So, I've tried to keep the same, even though that's not necessarily my personality to be like that, but it's definitely a learned behavior when it comes to good horses.
"It's let the horse pick the race, not let the race pick the horse. Don't have a goal of the Derby until the horse has actually let you know that's the direction you're headed in. But I'm excited. It's great to talk about it. I hope we can make it to the first Saturday in May, but we're appreciative of how far we've come."
Bred by Bob Austin and John Witte, Girvin has earnings of $274,400 and is currently third on the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) leaderboard with 50 points.