North Texas horse racing fans rooting for regional pride over their wallets can turn an eye during Saturday’s Kentucky Derby toward Girvin, the points leader heading into the first leg of the Triple Crown.
Girvin’s owner, Brad Grady, is from Covington, just a few miles south of Cleburne. Knowing the horse’s recent history, with three wins in his past four stakes races, and his early odds, which came in Wednesday at 15-1, winning the biggest race in the sport is a simple proposition from the owner’s vantage point if only because it’s totally out of his hands.
“He’s going to have to be faster than the other 19,” Grady said. “The Derby’s all predicated on the trip, and if we have a good clean trip, he’s going to run good.”
What Grady means by his horse’s “trip” is the way he navigates the dense 20-horse Derby field. It’s the biggest field Girvin, or any of the 3-year-olds, will likely see in their careers. As the race starts and the riders on the outside seek the shortest route around the mile-and-a-quarter track at Churchill Downs, some bunching and bumping will occur as they slide down.
Which is why Girvin’s No. 7 position is considered good, not great. Six Derby winners have come from position No. 7 since official starting positions were put into place for the race in 1930.
If it’s a simple proposition for Grady from his viewing box, winning aboard Girvin will be anything but simple for Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, a 35-year veteran who is riding the horse for the first time.
On top of that lack of rapport with the horse, Smith is riding Girvin just nine days after trainer Joe Sharp told the Daily Racing Form that the horse was recovering from a quarter crack in his right front hoof. But Grady believes Smith’s experience makes him the man for the job Saturday at the Derby.
“The guy’s record speaks for itself,” Grady said of Smith. “He’s the most accomplished rider now riding. We felt Mike Smith would fit our horse well.”
In 2005, Smith rode 50-1 longshot Giacomo to victory in the Derby, his first win in the storied race. He was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 2003.
Arlington trainer Steve Asmussen has three horses in the 2017 Kentucky Derby field: Lookin’ at Lee (20-1 odds, post No. 1), Untrapped (30-1, No. 4) and Hence (15-1, No. 15).
Jockey Smith has Sunday’s mount on Bob Baffert’s Mor Spirit at Lone Star Park, where Grady has been running horses since 2011, in the $200,000 Steve Sexton Mile, a mere 24 hours after the Derby. Mor Spirit is favored (6-5) in that Grade III race.
Another of Grady’s horses, Supermason, which is not in Sunday’s field, was named Lone Star Park’s Horse of the Meet for 2016 after winning two stakes races at Lone Star Park and setting a record there on the turf course.
Matthew Martinez: 817-390-7667; @MCTinez817
Kentucky Derby Day at Lone Star Park
- 10:30 a.m.: Gates open
- 1:35 p.m.: First live race
- 3 p.m.: Kentucky Derby best hat contest in Courtyard of Champions (must be present in Courtyard of Champions)
- 5:46 p.m.: Live simulcast of the Kentucky Derby from Churchill Downs
- $5: General admission with free parking