Fair Grounds Barn Notes: Monday, March 20

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· Gun Runner Works at Meydan
· Guest Suite Looking to Upgrade in Louisiana Derby
· Cool Arrow Shooting for Return to Form

GUN RUNNER WORKS AT MEYDAN

Winchell Thoroughbreds’ and Three Chimneys Farm’s Gun Runner got a feel for the Meydan dirt course on Monday morning at approximately 7:00 a.m. local time in Dubai. The son of Candy Ride (Arg) worked a half-mile in 49.80 with Steve Asmussen’s top assistant Scott Blasi watching on horseback.

The winner of the 2016 Grade II $1,000,000 Louisiana Derby enters the world’s second-richest race in the best form of his career, having demolished the Grade III $500,000 Razorback Handicap last out at Oaklawn Park and winning his first Grade I a race prior in the $500,000 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs. The compact and consistent chestnut seeks his first victory at America’s classic distance of 1¼ miles, a trip over which he has twice finished third, including in the Grade I $2,000,000 Kentucky Derby last May and Grade I $1,500,000 Travers Stakes the following August.

Regular rider and leading local jockey Florent Geroux rides.

GUEST SUITE LOOKING TO UPGRADE IN LOUISIANA DERBY

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, 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.”

COOL ARROW SHOOTING FOR RETURN TO FORM

Brad Grady’s Cool Arrow has some options for his next start. Trainer Joe Sharp has two distinctly different routes he may take with the son of Into Mischief. The multiple stakes-winning charge is under consideration for both the $75,000 Spectacular Bid Stakes on Saturday at Gulfstream Park and the $100,000 Rushaway Stakes at Turfway Park the same day. The former event is at 6½ furlongs on the main track at said Hallandale Beach, Florida racecourse. The latter is at 1 1/16 miles on the Polytrack of Turfway Park.

“We are looking at both of those races for Cool Arrow,” Sharp confirmed. “He’s training well and has worked well the last few weeks with Girvin and we know Girvin is a very good horse.”

Speaking of Girvin, Cool Arrow looks to rebound from a poor effort in the Grade II $400,000 Risen Star Stakes on Feb. 25, a race in which Girvin made a massive splash onto the Kentucky Derby trail with a victory. Cool Arrow, who was likely feeling residual effects of a sickness over the winter, was a non-factor that day, not showing his usual early foot.

In seven starts, the bay colt has three victories and a pair of runner-up finishes. The decision process for the aforementioned next races is likely to be a tough one for Grady and Sharp, as the Kentucky-bred has a stakes victory at a six-furlong sprint and one at a two-turn mile. Each of those races happened at Remington Park — the Listed $75,000 Kip Deville Stakes on Sept. 25 Oklahoma Derby undercard and the Listed $300,000 Springboard Mile two starts and nearly three months later on Dec. 11 of his juvenile season. Sandwiched between those two efforts was a solid second in the restricted $300,000 Spendthrift Stallion Stakes at Churchill Downs.

Overall, the maternal grandson of top handicap horse Mr. Purple has made a respectable showing thus far with a pair of stakes victories, two Equibase speed figures above 90 and $282,835 in earnings. He and Girvin, with Sharp aboard Cool Arrow and Rosie Napravnik aboard Girvin, worked five furlongs in 1:01 flat on Saturday morning.

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