Looking for a Sharp horse when it comes to Kentucky Derby 143? Well, I think we all are. Perhaps you need to look no farther than the 2017 Louisiana Derby winner.

Girvin is a Kentucky bred colt that has a lot of things going for him. For starters, he has a red-hot conditioner in the youthful Joe Sharp. Even though he has been an active trainer for only 2 ½ years, Joe has become one of the sharper tools in the shed as he has been in the game his entire life. Son of a trainer (father) and exercise rider (mother) and husband to award-winning jockey Rosie Napravnik, Sharp is surrounded by support . Applying a lifetime of learning, the Louisiana-based conditioner has cultivated Girvin into a real contender with the help of them all.

“This thing has really been special so far,” admits Sharp. “Having my family so involved is a very nice thing. I’m good friends with our farrier and Rosie works the horse, my mom and dad are there, it’s just been really good. Of course it may be a little better for them because they are not feeling the pressure like I am. But in all honesty, it has been great to have such a nice horse in our barn.”

Girvin has been a little more than just nice. Entering the Kentucky Derby off impressive back-to-back wins, this son of Tale of Ekati stalked a lively pace to win in the Risen Star Stakes (February 25) and then came back with another solid effort while taking the Louisiana Derby (April 1). With three wins and a second in his last four starts, Sharp has been saddling a real talent.

“Girvin is a real racehorse,” says Sharp. “He’s tough, competitive, loves what he does, and is versatile. The race does not have to be a certain way for him to win and I think he has proven that. Girvin is what I call a tactical grinder. He may not have that tremendous kick, but he does have sustained speed and will always fight to the wire.”

The Louisiana Derby win indeed proved the worth of Girvin. Running in mid-pack down the backstretch, he navigated through horses and swung wide once they straightened out for home. Making his move and taking the lead inside the sixteenth pole, Sharp’s prized pupil displayed plenty of fight as he surged through the wire to a length and a half win.

“Some might be a little critical of his last race and say he had things all his way, but I don’t think that was the case at all,” says the leading trainer in earnings at the Fair Grounds ($1,525,360) in 2017. “He had to overcome a lot of dirt in the face and was able to get through some traffic. He was nice and settled on the backstretch and didn’t spend any extra energy. He saved it all for the stretch run and that was exactly what we wanted.”

In the last few days team Girvin may have gotten another boost when arguably one of the top riders in the game committed to the irons of this great-grandson of Sunday Silence. After regular rider Brian Hernandez opted to ride McCracken in Derby 143, veteran Mike Smith contacted Sharp and the services of one of the best big race riders was secured.

“We hated to lose Brian because we have a long-standing relationship with him,” says Sharp. “I can say it did not hurt my feelings when Mike Smith called us. It really made us feel good that a jockey like Mike Smith wants to ride our horse. He is going to work Girvin in the coming days just to get familiar with him. He is not a hard horse to ride and I think Mike will be great on him.”

Girvin has made his way to Churchill Downs in fine fashion. Hoping to become the first Louisiana Derby winner since Grindstone (1996) to win the roses, the Brady Grady owned colt looks primed for another big effort.

He really has not missed a beat,” observes the 32 year-old Sharp. “I can say I may have not expected to be in this position right now, but we are certainly not surprised.”