Trainer Neil Howard's enthusiasm for Guest Suite ahead of Saturday's $200,000 Lecomte (G3) was apparently so infectious, the three-year-old gelding was bet down from a 5-1 morning line price and started as the 5-2 favorite in the Kentucky Derby (G1) prep at Fair Grounds.
"He has had a great schedule and hasn't missed a beat training and has trained wonderfully down here," Howard said.
Guest Suite ran to his works, rallying from mid-pack over a muddy track to win the Lecomte by 1 1/4 lengths under Robby Albarado. A homebred racing for Will Farish and Lora Jean Kilroy, Guest Suite completed one mile and 70 yards over a muddy track in 1:43.20 and paid $7.60.
Untrapped, making his first start since a maiden win at Churchill Downs on November 20, finished second by a half-length over Takeoff, with Arklow another head behind in fourth.
Kentucky Derby eligibility points of 10-4-2-1 were awarded to the top four finishers, but only Guest Suite advanced into the top 20 with his performance. Guest Suite's 10 points now puts him in 11th place, a position he should retain into early February when the next series of preps will be run.
A son of Quality Road, Guest Suite finished third in his debut at Ellis Park last August, then rebounded in his first two-turn attempt in a Keeneland maiden, winning by 2 1/4 lengths. Third to to the formidable McCraken in the $83,000 Street Sense in his stakes bow, Guest Suite again fared better in his next start, taking a one-mile Churchill allowance by more than six lengths.
Likely to stay on the Fair Grounds trail of Derby preps, the Risen Star (G2) and Louisiana Derby (G2), Guest Suite moves forward with a mark of 5-3-0-2, $203,840.
(Lou Hodges Jr./Hodges Photography)