Airdrie-Bred Girvin Fillies Meet Again in Starlet

'TDN Rising Star' Faiza joins fellow Airdre-bred
Girvin filly Blessed Touch in the GI Starlet S. | Benoit

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Born just a day apart in the same foaling barn, two daughters of Girvin once roamed the same Bluegrass fields in their early days at Airdrie Stud. On Saturday, the duo will meet again as 'TDN Rising Star' Faiza and stakes-placed Blessed Touch enter the starting gate for the GI Starlet S. at Los Alamitos Race Course.

The Brereton C. Jones-bred fillies represent two of the 20 winners this year for fast-starting first-crop stallion Girvin, who has relocated from Ocala Stud to Airdrie for the 2023 breeding season. With four stakes winners including GII Saratoga Special-winning 'Rising Star' Damon's Mound already on his list of progeny, a Grade I score on Saturday could be the bow on top of a spectacular season for Girvin as the year comes to a close.

Faiza will be the clear favorite in this weekend's lone graded contest. The Bob Baffert-trained, Michael Lund Petersen-campaigned filly earned 'Rising Star' honors on debut last month at Del Mar going six furlongs.

Out of the Smart Strike mare Sweet Pistol, who is a half to MGSW and Spendthrift sire Thousand Words (Pioneerof the Nile), Faiza has improved at every step of her career. A shrewd $90,000 purchase for Bet Racing at the Fasig-Tipton July Sale, she was sent to Paul Sharp and went on to fetch $725,000 at this year's Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Sale.

“She was a beautiful filly from the start,” Airdrie's Bret Jones recalled. “We always thought she was right at the top of that foal crop and we had her in the July Sale to try and show off what the stallion was producing. Everyone who has ever had the filly has been pretty over-the-top with her. The reports along the way have been a lot of fun to hear about and then to see it all come to fruition in that first race had us really pumped. She has the look of a very special filly.”

Blessed Touch will be another top choice in the Starlet's field of seven. The elder of the two Girvin fillies by one day, she is out of the Street Boss mare Blushing Touch and is from the family of champion Left Bank (French Deputy). A $32,000 Keeneland September purchase for Julie Davies, Blessed Touch went on to sell for $140,000 at the OBS April Sale to Pierre and Leslie Amestoy and Roger Bersley.

Trained by Tim Yakteen, the bay broke her maiden at second asking by nearly nine lengths and then ran second to talented 'Rising Star' Justique (Justify) in the Desi Arnaz S.

“Unfortunately Blessed Touch's dam has passed away, but she left behind a very nice filly,” Jones said. “She ran a winning race in the Desi Arnaz and just ran into a really good filly that day. If she can take a step forward, she has the chance to be really competitive.”

In comparing Faiza and Blessed Touch, Jones said that the two juveniles share their sire's athleticism.

“When Girvin is on the shank, I think it's his athleticism that really stands out,” Jones explained. “Both of these fillies fit that same description when they were with us. They were really athletic types and looked like they could do the job.”

Girvin raced to three graded stakes victories, including the 2017 GI Haskell Invitational S., for Brad Grady before retiring to Ocala Stud. He stood his first four years there as property of Brad and Misty Grady's Grand Oaks Farm in partnership with Airdrie Stud.

“It was a partnership that was very attractive to us,” Jones said. “It was as much about who we were partnering with as it was the horse that we were partnering on. Brad has done everything he can to help the stallion and we have done our part by sending mares down to Florida every year. Ocala Stud did a remarkable job promoting him and making sure the horse had every opportunity.”

Girvin will stand for $25,000 in 2023 | EquiSport

Girvin stood for an introductory fee of $7,500 in Florida and bred 149 mares. When that first crop hit the racetrack this year, Jones said that Girvin didn't give his partnership much of a choice when it came to where he would stand in 2023.

“We've been run over by mare submissions and the horse is essentially full. He's now at a price point of $25,000, so the mare quality that he's getting is fantastic. These are some of the top breeders in the industry that want to send mares to him. We will be breeding some of the absolute best mares in our band and Brad Grady will be doing the same, just as he has from the start.”

Jones credits Girvin's early achievements at stud to the quality of mares his partners have supported him with and the athleticism the son of Tale of Ekati showed on the racetrack that he is now passing on to his offspring.

“He's this beautiful, talented and athletic horse that maybe didn't have the sire power that people perceived as being needed to stand initially in Kentucky,” he explained. “But if you go back now after the horse has had some success, it's not too hard to see why success was always possible.”

Girvin currently ranks a close seventh on the list of leading American first-crop sires by earnings. A productive turnout from his two Starlet-bound fillies could give him an extra boost before the end of the year.

“It's a loaded group of first-crop stallions this year,” Jones said. “When you come in with a $7,500 stallion, it's going to be a tough group to compete with. But if he could put up a Grade I winner and combine that with the body of work he already has, it would be the icing on the cake of a pretty phenomenal freshman season and hopefully a harbinger of some very special days ahead.”

Bob Baffert has won the last five editions of the Starlet, and his 7-5 morning line favorite Faiza will make her two-turn debut alongside stablemates Doinitthehardway (Street Sense), an improving maiden adding distance in her fourth start, and Fast and Shiny (Bernardini). The field also includes Repole Stable's Uncontrollable (Upstart), the runner-up in the GII Chandelier S., and Pride of the Nile (Pioneerof the Nile), who makes her main track debut after three promising starts on turf.

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