News & Barn notes

Girvin Gets Up At Wire To Win Haskell Invitational By Nose Over McCracken; Practical Joke 3rd At Monmouth

July 30, 2017




          OCEANPORT, N.J. – Brad Grady’s Girvin roared down the stretch with a late rally and then pushed his nose in front when it counted to win Sunday’s 50th running of the $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park. 

          In one of the most exciting renewals of the Haskell ever, Girvin was a determined force in the stretch as he avenged a nose loss in the Ohio Derby last out by pipping Whitham Thoroughbreds’ McCraken on the post. Klaravich Stables and William H. Lawrence’s Practical Joke, who also came with a strong stretch run, had to settle for third, a half-length behind the top two. 

          Isabelle de Tomaso’s Irish War Cry, a New Jersey-bred colt owned by a daughter of Amory Haskell and therefore a sentimental favorite, was prominent throughout, but had to settle for fourth in the field of seven 3-year-olds. 

          Woodford Racing’s Timeline, unbeaten in four races, went off the favorite at 19-10 and was a force early, dueling with Battle of Midway for the lead down the backstretch. He tired from those efforts to finish fifth, with Battle of Midway sixth and Hence seventh. 

          Girvin, trained by Joe Sharp and ridden by Robby Albarado, went off the second longest price in the race at 9-1 and returned $20.40, $9.20 and $4.80 across the board. McCracken, off at 7-1, paid $7.20 and $4.40, and Practical Joke, third choice in the wagering, paid $3.80 to show. 

          The Girvin-McCraken exacta returned a generous $154.80. 

          Girvin, a son of Tale of Ekati – Catch the Moon, by Malibu Moon, earned a winner’s prize of $600,000 to raise his lifetime earnings to $1,574,400 on a record of  four wins and two seconds in seven lifetime starts. His only off-the board finish came when he ran 13th in the Kentucky Derby. 

          “Brad (owner Brad Grady) and I talked after the Kentucky Derby,” trainer Sharp said, “and we thought it was right by Girvin to give him a freshening. 

          “We thought the Ohio Derby was a good spot for him and close to home (Sharp trains at Churchill Downs). From his effort there, we thought he deserved a shot in the Haskell. He was such a confident horse today.” 

          Jockey Robby Albarado said his team’s strategy worked out. 

          “We talked about it in the paddock,” Albarado said, “and we were all on the same page. We thought the three horses to the inside would be the speed. 

          “He started to settle into his stride on the backside. I just tried to get him to the outside and keep up his momentum.” 

          “This is my favorite track,” owner Brad Grady said. “Monmouth Park always rolls out the red carpet. I love the older track feel. The family is here and it’s a family environment. I just love it.” 

          Ian Wilkes, trainer of McCraken, was disappointed.  

          “It’s a tough beat any time,” Wilkes said, “but especially in a Grade 1.” 

          Jockey Brian Hernandez Jr., who rode McCraken, was philosophical. 

          “He ran great today,” Hernandez said. “Turning for home he put in a huge run and I thought we might have it, but he just couldn’t hold off that other horse. It just wasn’t our day, but we have to be so proud of our horse.” 

          Chad Brown, who trains both Timeline and Practical Joke, won three races on the day’s undercard, but the big prize got away. 

          “Timeline missed the break,” Brown said, “and that got him out of sorts. He rushed up and got in between horses. That just wasn’t the trip we wanted and unfortunately that did him in. 

          “Practical Joke ran very well,” Brown said. “He was right there at the wire in a three-way photo. He gave it his all. 

“The two horses that finished ahead of Practical Joke ran outstanding. It’s just unfortunate there had to be a loser among them.” 

          A crowd of 35,303 was on hand at Monmouth on a perfect summer’s day for what was considered a wide-open running of the Haskell, and the fans got their money’s worth of thrills. 

 Irish War Cry broke on top from Post 1, but Battle of Midway wanted the lead and got it by running inside of the rail horse through the stretch the first time.  

          Battle of Midway still held the lead at the half-mile pole, where he was challenged by Timeline, who was in front briefly before Battle of Midway regained the front. 

But the complexion of the race rapidly changed, as McCraken and Girvin launched their attack from the back of the pack heading into the turn. 

          Entering the stretch, McCraken moved boldly to the lead and held a daylight margin at the eighth pole, looking like a winner. But Girvin and Practical Joke were really on the move now in the center of the track.  

Girvin had the most gas of the two and was up at the wire for the biggest win of his life.