Nosy Girvin beats McCraken to wire
OCEANPORT, N.J. — Louisiana Derby winner Girvin unleashed a dramatic rally in deep stretch to beat McCraken by a nose Sunday for a 9-1 upset in the $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park.
The victory moved Girvin into contention for top honors in this season’s wide-open 3-year-old division.
Robby Albarado was aboard for trainer Joe Sharp, who scored the biggest victory of his career.
The Triple Crown produced three different winners: Always Dreaming in the Kentucky Derby, Cloud Computing in the Preakness and Tapwrit in the Belmont Stakes.
The Jim Dandy on Saturday at Saratoga only muddled
the picture as Good Samaritan pulled an upset while Always Dreaming ran third with Cloud Computing fifth.
This was a statement race for Girvin who has battled hoof cracks all year. The winner of the Risen Star Stakes and the Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds in New Orleans finished 13th in the Kentucky Derby before rebounding with a second in the Ohio Derby.
The Haskell was the first Grade 1 victory for Girvin and Sharp. And it featured several twists and turns.
Early speedsters Battle of Midway, third in the Kentucky Derby, and Timeline, the 9-5 favorite, did not get clean breaks as they were both bumped at the start.
The jostling cost both early positioning before they recovered to set the early pace with Irish War Cry, the 2-1 second choice, sitting right behind in third.
Those three led through the first 6 furlongs over Monmouth’s traditionally speed-favoring surface.
This Haskell belonged to the closers.
Girvin encountered plenty of trouble on his own. The early trailer in the seven-horse field, Girvin squeezed between rivals to launch his bid down the backstretch. He angled outside on the final turn but had to wait for traffic clearance for kicking into high gear.
The pacesetters were fading as the field turned for home and McCracken, eighth in the Kentucky Derby, pounced to grab the lead. He appeared on his way to the victory until Girvin and Practical Joke, fifth in the Kentucky Derby, moving in tandem, surged in the final furlong.
“I just had to trust my horse and his ability to get out and run them down, and he did,” Albarado said.
The stretch run had Sharp
“I just had to trust my horse and his ability to get out and run them down, and he did.” — Jockey Robby Albarado, who rode Girvin to victory in the Haskell Invitational
“Robby made me a little nervous,” Sharp said. “It was a long stretch. Thank God that it was.”
McCraken was the hardluck loser, coming out on the wrong end of the photo finish.
“Turning for home, he put in a huge run,” jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. said. “I thought we might have it, but he just couldn’t hold off that other horse.”
Sharp said the $1.25 million Travers at Saratoga on Aug. 26 is “a consideration” for Girvin’s next start.
“The timing for the Travers is good,” he said.
The time was 1:48.35 for 11/8 miles before 35,303 fans on a sunny afternoon on the Jersey Shore.
Girvin earned $600,000 for owner Brad Grady, a Texas cattleman who owns a farm in Grandview as well as an oil and gas equipment rental company.
The Haskell was a Breeders’ Cup Challenge race. Girvin earned an automatic berth in the $6 million Classic on Nov. 4 at Del Mar.
Girvin paid $20.40, $9.20 and $4.80 for his fourth victory in seven starts.
McCracken returned $7.20 and $4.40. Practical Joke paid $3.80 to show.
Irish War Cry was fourth followed by Timeline, Battle of Midway and Hence, recent winner of the Iowa Derby who finished 11th in Kentucky.
Girvin (left), with Robby Albarado riding, won the 50th running of the $1,000,000 Grade I Haskell Invitational on Sunday at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, N.J.