Hodges Photography / Amanda Hodges Weir

Guest Suite Fires Bullet in Preparation for Risen Star

Gelded son of Quality Road goes four furlongs in :48 Tuesday.

Count trainer Neil Howard as one who prefers his charges tout themselves rather than him giving out some grand proclamation.

In his final move in advance of the Feb. 25 $400,000 Risen Star Stakes (G2), Howard-trained Guest Suite stated his readiness for his next challenge on the Triple Crown trail, covering four furlongs in a bullet :48 at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots Feb. 21.

Owned and bred by William S. Farish and Lora Jean Kilroy, Guest Suite is likely to bear the main target in the 1 1/16-mile Risen Star—which kicks off the next tier of qualifying on the 2017 Road to the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard in which 50 points are awarded to the race winner. The gelded son of Quality Road  enters off a 1 1/4-length win in the Jan. 21 Lecomte Stakes (G3) at Fair Grounds and has not been worse than third in five career starts.

"He went very nice today, just exactly what we wanted," Howard said of Guest Suite's half-mile move. "He went a nice comfortable half, galloped out well. I was pleased. 

"He's made nice progression. Physically he was always a nice looking horse, everything always blended in on him. He's done well from fall until now; so far so good."

Guest Suite has earned his three career wins over three different tracks, breaking his maiden at second asking at Keeneland Oct. 8 and capping his juvenile campaign with a dazzling 6 1/4-length triumph in an allowance-optional claiming test going one-mile at Churchill Downs Nov. 26. Even his third-place effort in the Oct. 30 Street Sense Stakes at Churchill has served to flatter him as that race's winner, McCraken, came back to take the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) and open his sophomore campaign with a track-record setting win in the Feb. 11 Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs.

"He's always trained well. He did everything we kind of wanted him to do right up to his first race," Howard said of Guest Suite. "He was encouraging enough, but you just don't know until they do it. He ran well in his first start and fortunately, he seems to have improved and moved forward with each race."

Tuesday's move was the latest in a series of strong moves for Guest Suite. The bay gelding turned in a half-mile work in :47 4/5 at Fair Grounds Feb. 7 and recorded a bullet five-furlong drill in :59 2/5 Feb. 14.