Guest Suite made his first start in a Kentucky Derby qualifier a winning one, rallying to take the January 21 Lecomte (G3) at Fair Grounds by a 1 ¼-length margin over a muddy track. The Quality Road gelding is now 2-for-2 at two turns but will need to improve upon a 93 BRIS Speed rating.
Compared to recent Kentucky Derby preps, the Lecomte came back slow but all hope isn’t lost for Guest Suite. The Neil Howard trainee has a pair of preps and 3+ months to develop.
The depth of the 3-year-old crop may work against Guest Suite. In 2013, Orb registered only an 89 BRIS Speed rating when opening his 3-year-old season with a 1 1/8-mile allowance win at Gulfstream Park and went on to capture the Kentucky Derby. But the landscape was much different as the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) failed to produce a single runner of merit the following year and only a handful of serious contenders emerged, with Orb going postward as a slight 5-1 favorite at Churchill Downs after earning a 97 Speed rating winning the Florida Derby (G1).
New faces like Jerome (G3) winner El Areeb and Sham (G3) runner-up American Anthem have already posted triple-digit BRIS Speed ratings this year and Sham hero Gormley displayed plenty of juvenile class along with graded stakes winners Classic Empire, Mastery, McCraken, Mo Town and Practical Joke, who are all readying for their seasonal return.
The division appears strong and there are still a couple of promising sophomores – Battalion Runner and Irish War Cry – who I look forward to seeing in a Kentucky Derby qualifier.
Held at a mile and 70 yards, the Lecomte lacked a stakes winner and Guest Suite went postward as the 5-2 favorite. He settled into midpack with regular rider Robby Albarado and launched his move on the far turn, accelerating to the lead by midstretch and fending off the challenge of a pair of last-out maiden winners, runner-up Untrapped and third-placer Takeoff.
After solid opening splits (:23.42 and :46.47), Guest Suite registered a disappointing 84 BRIS Late Pace rating. A wet track can’t be blamed for the low numbers, with Holy Boss producing a 101 Speed rating (sprint) and Hawaakom equaling a career-best 102 (route) in undercard stakes.
Guest Suite was exiting a 6 ¼-length allowance tally and finished a non-threatening third to McCraken two starts back in his stakes debut, the Street Sense. Both were one-turn mile races at Churchill Downs last fall and Guest Suite broke his maiden when trying two turns at Keeneland.
He’s bred to appreciate longer distances. Out of mare by Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) winner Ghostzapper, Guest Suite hails from a regal female family with 1992 Broodmare of the Year Weekend Surprise (dam of classic winners A.P. Indy and Summer Squall) serving as his third maternal dam. Third-crop sire Quality Road was responsible for a trio of Grade 1 winners last year.
To improve his Kentucky Derby profile, Guest Suite is under pressure to show more from a Speed-rating perspective next time. He’s expected to return for the February 25 Risen Star (G2) at Fair Grounds along with Untrapped and Takeoff.
Other runners of interest
The Money Monster rallied to a half-length victory in the January 21 Pasco at Tampa Bay Downs, improving his record to 2-for-2. Trained by Rohan Crichton, the Majestic Warrior colt registered an 87 BRIS Speed rating in the 7-furlong race. By comparison, Musket Man earned a 101 winning the 2009 Pasco before going on to finish third in the Kentucky Derby.
Battle of Midway left a fine impression making a belated career debut at Santa Anita January 21, drawing off to a 3 ¼-length decision for Jerry Hollendorfer. Out of Grade 1 winner Rigoletta, the son of Smart Strike showed speed from the start of the 6-furlong maiden and earned a respectable 91 Speed rating in his unveiling. He sold for $410,000 as a yearling.
The Road to the Kentucky Derby series takes a one-week hiatus, with this being the only weekend in 2017 without a points’ race until late April.
Enthusiasts are looking forward to February 4, which features the return of early Kentucky Derby favorite Classic Empire in the Holy Bull (G2) at Gulfstream Park as well as the Withers (G3) at Aqueduct and Robert Lewis (G3) at Santa Anita.
Kentucky Derby Top 20
- CLASSIC EMPIRE: Unanimous 2yo champ readying for Feb. 4 Holy Bull
- MCCRAKEN: Uncontested & Guest Suite have flattered him; returns in Feb. 11 Sam Davis
- MASTERY: Wet weather doing him no favors, Baffert in no rush with only single January work
- AMERICAN ANTHEM: Watch out if he continues to improve off Sham as expected
- GORMLEY: Major West Coast contender for Zenyatta connections (Moss/Shirreffs)
- MO TOWN: Uncle Mo colt earned big figure winning Remsen
- EL AREEB: Back-to-back triple-digit BRIS Speed ratings for Jerome romper
- PRACTICAL JOKE: Multiple G1 winner exits third in BC Juvenile
- IRISH WAR CRY: Training at Palm Meadows after winning first two starts at Laurel
- NO DOZING: Remsen runner-up looks set to face McCraken in Sam Davis
- BATALLION RUNNER: Spectacular maiden winner could by any kind for Pletcher
- GUNNEVERA: Late runner flew past rivals in resounding Delta Jackpot win
- LOOKIN AT LEE: Stakes winner finished fourth in BC Juvenile
- GUEST SUITE: Lecomte winner 2-of-2 at a route
- WILD SHOT: Placed against Classic Empire and McCraken in final juvenile appearances
- FACT FINDING: Headed to a points’ race after 3 easy wins
- UNCONTESTED: Dominated Smarty Jones but longer distances remain a concern
- DABSTER: $1 million Curlin colt exits 2-turn maiden score for Baffert
- FAJA: Smart debut winner shows recent bullet work for Pletcher
- APARTFROMTHECROWD: Gio Ponti colt could have plenty of upside for Brown