Pletcher’s Pair, Guest Suite On The Improve For Louisiana Derby

Trainer Todd Pletcher has proven three times in the last decade that he can ship in and win the Grade II $1,000,000 TwinSpires.com Louisiana Derby and this year he brings in an intriguing duo of lightly raced recent graduates for powerful ownerships. 

Drawing the rail, Calumet Farm's Patch ran extremely well to win a one-turn mile maiden at Gulfstream Park maiden on Feb. 18. The homebred son of Union Rags, who lost his left eye in a track accident early in his career, has two starts and won professionally last out by 1¾ lengths. Tyler Gaffalione ships in for the mount.

Monaco, owned by the powerful Coolmore conglomerate of Derrick Smith, Michael Tabor and Mrs. John Magnier, was a $1.3 million purchase one year ago at Ocala's March sale and adds blinkers this time around after racing very greenly en route to a 12-length romp in a Tampa Bay Downs maiden. By Uncle Mo out of a Sky Classic mare, he may appreciate the increase in trip from a mile and 40 yards to a 1 1/8 miles.

Rajiv Maragh is slated to ride Monaco from the five-hole.

“The first day they were both a little nervous, but they have trained well. Today they have settled in beautifully and I couldn't ask for more,” said Adele Bellinger, assistant to Pletcher. “Patch has a nice turn of foot and a lot of talent. It's not easy to jump up into a Grade II out of a maiden race, but I feel like we have a sound, happy horse and that gives me confidence going into the race.

“I like Monaco's post (five) and he's training beautifully,” Bellinger continued. “This is both horses' first time shipping far from home and they're both doing well, especially (Friday) morning.”

William S. Farish and Lora Jean Kilroy's homebred gelding Guest Suite appears primed for a return to form in the Grade II $1,000,000 TwinSpires.com Louisiana Derby. The Neil Howard trainee won the Grade III Lecomte Stakes on Jan. 21 before finishing a respectable fourth last out in Girvin's Grade II Risen Star Stakes on Feb. 25. Racing a little farther off the pace in the latter, his conditioner hinted that you may possibly see him a little more handy this time when journeyman Robby Albarado takes the reins. 

“I wouldn't mind seeing him maybe a little bit closer, but I think the mile and an eighth will be enough of a benefit that if he does wind up back where he was that may not be too bad,” Howard said. “I wouldn't mind being closer, but it doesn't always play out like you want it to. You have to see what happens with the speed and whether or not the speed softens Local Hero on the front end.

“He's training well and we're very happy with him,” Howard concluded. “I expect him to run well and we hope he takes us forward (to the Grade I Kentucky Derby on May 6).” 

Overall, Guest Suite has been admirably consistent in just six starts. His three victories include a one-mile allowance at Churchill Downs on Nov. 26 and a 1 1/16-miles Keeneland maiden victory over last week's Grade III Sunland Park Derby winner Hence. He was also third to Kentucky Derby future book favorite McCraken in October's Street Sense Stakes. Overall, he has yet to finish worse than fourth from a sextet of attempts.

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