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Jockey Brian Hernandez is congratulated by Misty Grady after riding Girvin to victory in the 104th Louisiana Derby Saturday, April 1, 2017, at the Fair Grounds. Patch placed second and Local Hero third.

Advocate staff photo by SCOTT THRELKELD

Joe Sharp calls it a "we game."

Sharp, the 30-year-old trainer, was referring to his entire team, all the people who played a part in helping Girvin win Saturday's Louisiana Derby.

"It makes it a lot more fun when you do it with the ones you love," Sharp whispered through a hoarse voice, the result of him screaming throughout the day's biggest race.

But Sharp could have been speaking about the entire day at the Fair Grounds in the 104th running of the Louisiana Derby.

There was plenty of teamwork on display on a picture-perfect day in Gentilly.

Les Colonello was there, just as he has been for the past 13 years, blowing his bugle to signal the start of every race.

"I'm the only guy in town that does it, so it's a cool job," Colonello said. "It's a historic job."

It's a job that the late legendary trumpeter Al Hirt once held as a teenager.

Colonello auditioned for the job years ago and came in second. Eventually the previous bugler moved out of town and Colonello landed the gig.

He's been doing it ever since.

But this day had its newcomers, as well.

Jockey Tyler Gaffalione had never been to the Fair Grounds. Heck, he'd never even been to New Orleans.

But he made it look easy in the Big Easy, riding Enterprising to victory in the Muniz Memorial turf race. Not only did Gaffalione find the victory circle, he also found a city that he's quite fond of.

"I absolutely love it here," said Gaffalione, who lives in Florida. "It's such a cool town. The people are so friendly here and everything is just lovely."

It was a special day for Gaffalione, and an even more special one for trainer Wayne Cattalano. His horse, Farrell, won the second biggest race of the day, winning the Oaks.

"It's a hometown crowd, so when you can win a race at home like this, it's a good feeling," Cattalano said.

It was a bit nostalgic for Cattalano, who won the Louisiana Derby back in 1987.

"It's far and in between drinks, but 20 years later here, we are," he joked.

But one of the biggest winners on this day was the Fair Grounds.

Jason Boulet, senior racing director at the Fair Grounds, called it an "excellent day," just a few months after he remembers having to ask, "what if?"

What if the equine virus, discovered in one of the barns in December, had wiped out this year's event?

It didn't, thanks to dome proactive work done by the facility, not to mention a show of faith from local owners, among others. 

"I just have to give credit to everyone here who made it come together," he said.

Saturday's crowd was one of the largest in at least five years, Boulet said. He attributed that to the perfect weather.

Girvin capped off the day, winning the marquee race and $1 million prize that came with it. He was draped by a bed of roses. It was the first time the bed of roses had returned to the Louisiana Derby since pre-Katrina. The roses are the exact same dimensions as those used at the Kentucky Derby, where Girvin will compete in May.

"I'm glad he won, because he has the most upside of any of the local horses," racing secretary Scott Jones said. "He's a horse that will make the Louisiana Derby look good."

On this picture-perfect Saturday, everybody did their part to make sure the derby looked good.

Follow Rod Walker on Twitter, @rwalkeradvocate.