William S. Farish and Lora Jean Kilroy's homebred Guest Suite appears to be slipping under the radar already for the Grade II $1,000,000 Louisiana Derby at the Fair Grounds, despite never throwing a bad effort and a steady string of sharp works. The 3-year-old gelded son of Quality Road was a well-supported 7-2 in the Grade II $400,000 Risen Star Stakes on Feb. 25 and closed from 13 lengths back to finish 4½ lengths behind Joe Sharp-trained upstart Girvin. Guest Suite was exiting a career-best performance when winning the Grade III $200,000 Lecomte Stakes on Jan. 21, an effort that was his third career victory within a now six-race career in which he has consistently faced top competition.
Trainer Neil Howard is both cautiously optimistic and realistically confident in his reliable charge. The Kentucky-bred reinforced such with a bullet work this past Tuesday, going five panels in 1:00.60 with his veteran conditioner looking on from the outer rail. The move was his third bullet from his last four works, though it must be stated that his drills usually happen on Tuesdays, a day when there are far fewer workers at Fair Ground Race Course & Slots.
“I really think the work went well for him,” Neil Howard said. “I'm very pleased. He's been training really well since the Risen Star. We kind of laid a plan out since the race and so far he's done everything we have asked, especially in his works.
“To be honest with you, I was happy to see more of the same (big effort) from him,” Howard said of the Risen Star. “I think he's done great so far and you can't win every race. I think both his efforts this year were good and I think he ran very well in the Risen Star. If anything, and hindsight is what it is, he may have been a little far back for his liking, but I'm not sure there was too much to be done about that and he gave a big effort.”
Prior to winning the Lecomte, Guest Suite — who has been ridden by Robby Albarado in all six career starts, including a trio of victories and two third-place finishes — was third to divisional leader McCraken in the $80,000 Street Sense going a one-turn mile at Churchill Downs. In two-turn races, his only loss was the Risen Star from three tries and his stamina was on display in the Risen Star, itself, when appeared to briefly look like he may hang, but then found another gear to drive home well in the final sixteenth and nearly snag the show spot from highly regarded Local Hero.
“On the (Kentucky) Derby trail, it's rare that you win every race and I'd just like to see him keep looking good on the track and, just as important if not more, I want to see him with a great appetite and physical well-being about him. Those are all the things you look for in any horse, but especially with a horse of this caliber.
“His pedigree suggests that it's better the farther he goes and I think he has shown that,” Howard concluded. “Very few if any have gone a mile and an eighth, but we think he should like it and we think that's a positive. It's also nice to see him have such consistency. I love that about him and I'm very happy with what he's done so far. It'll be a field full of good horses, so we'll hope for the best.”
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