In his first trip to the winner's circle, Irap caught most everyone— including his own connections—off guard.
For the second successful outing of his career, the son of Tiznow proved that hint of talent was no fluke when he caught fellow graded stakes winner Girvin on the line in the final strides to edge out a victory in the $500,000 Ohio Derby (G3) at Thistledown June 24.
Irap and Girvin were two of the four contenders in the seven-horse Ohio Derby field seeking to get their form back on track after disappointing runs in the May 6 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1). While Girvin battled a quarter crack heading into his 13th-place finish on the first Saturday in May, Reddam Racing's Irap simply never got running and hit the wire 18th that day. That led many who already viewed his maiden-breaking, upset win in the April 8 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G2) with skepticism to hold tight to that opinion.
After he tracked the pace in fifth between horses as fellow Kentucky Derby starter Fast and Accurate was pressed by Girvin through fractions of :23.06 and :48.04, Irap showed that his big-bodied self was still capable of positive progression. Fast and Accurate threw in the towel just after the half, then Girvin turned back a challenge from Game Over after he already rebuffed a brief threat from Vibe. Irap advanced to third and then angled out three-wide under jockey Julien Leparoux to begin his stretch surge.
The half brother to champion and sire Speightstown ran by a tiring Game Over and responded to a couple left-handed taps from Leparoux to get his nose down at the finish for his second win in 10 starts, after it took eight tries to break his maiden.
The final time for the 1 1/8 miles was 1:50.48.
"He broke good and we had good position," said Leparoux. "I was a little farther back in the first turn (than expected) but I was right behind Mike Smith (on Girvin), and I knew that was the right horse to follow. He's the kind of horse you have to ask pretty early, because he has that long, long stride, so I was able to get him going early and got there on time. I didn't know that I'd won, it was so close."
While even Reddam and trainer Doug O'Neill were stunned when Irap won the Blue Grass at odds of 31-1, when he bested a group that included previously unbeaten McCraken and eventual Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (G1) winner Tapwrit, they have maintained their faith that the colt had graded quality in him. In December he ran second to well-regarded Mastery in the Los Alamitos Cash Call Futurity (G1) and he opened his sophomore campaign with back-to-back runner-up finishes in the Feb. 4 Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G3) and Feb. 26 Mine That Bird Derby.
"There's talk about bringing him home to California, there's talk about the Indiana Derby," O'Neill said. "We'll see how he comes out of it in the morning and put our heads together and come up with a plan."
Girvin, by contrast, was a more accomplished runner. He won three of his first four starts, including the Risen Star Stakes (G2) and Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby (G2), before his Kentucky Derby preparations were hindered by his quarter crack issues. Even in defeat in the Ohio Derby, the son of Tale of Ekati showed he was on the right path.
Bred by Aaron and Marie Jones, Irap paid $7.60, $3, and $2.40 across the board. Untrapped, 12th in the Kentucky Derby, came up for third, with Sorry Erik and Game Over completing the top five. Hinton finished sixth, well clear of Talk Less, with Vibe and Fast and Accurate rounding out of the order of finish.
Irap was purchased by Dennis O'Neill, brother of Doug, for $300,000 at the 2016 Ocala Breeders' Sales March 2-year-olds in training sale and has improved his earnings to $1,072,600.