The Orchid Handicap (gr. IIIT) goes to the five-year-old mare Hostess, who won her first graded stakes in the process.

The Orchid Handicap (gr. IIIT) goes to the five-year-old mare Hostess, who won her first graded stakes in the process.

Coglianese Photos

Hostess Serves Up Win in Orchid 'Cap

The 5-year-old mare won for the first time in over a year March 29 at Gulfstream.

William Clifton Jr.’s Hostess received a perfect ground-saving trip from John Velazquez, struck the front with a half-furlong to go, and edged away to win the $150,000 Orchid Handicap (gr. IIIT) (VIDEO) by 1 1/4 lengths March 30 on the turf at Gulfstream Park.

Hostess, whose last win came more than a year ago in an allowance event at Gulfstream, earned her first graded stakes victory. The 5-year-old Chester House mare completed the 1 ½-mile marathon in 2:25.83.

Betting favorite Mauralakana, who was coming off a score in the March 8 Very One Handicap (gr. IIIT) - the same race in which Hostess was seventh in her 2008 debut - finished second. Herboriste was third in a field of eight.

Trained by H. James Bond, Hostess improved to 3-3-5 from 16 career starts. She was bred in Kentucky by Peter Van Andal.

French-bred Eclisse took the field around for more than a mile in the Orchid, setting fractions of :24.81, :49.02, :1:15.18, and 1:39.23 under Eddie Castro. Cliffrose pressed the pace for most of the way, with Duchess Royale and Mauralakana stalking the pace. I’m in Love was also in the mix for a mile.

Eclisse still led as they came out of the final turn, but was beginning to tire badly. Mauralakana, with Rene Douglas aboard, assumed the lead from a three-wide position at the top of the lane. But Hostess, who saved ground throughout and was in last after a mile, began her bold move along the rail.

Hostess came to challenge Mauralakana at the furlong marker and after a brief duel, took control at the sixteenth-pole. Velazquez urged her to the wire to win with room to spare.

“I rode her today like I did last year," Velazquez said. "I wasn’t concerned about the slow pace. When she ran in The Very One, the 1 1/8 miles wasn’t her distance. That day the ground was a little soft too, and she is better over firm ground like today. She was really close today and sustained her run. I let her go at the quarter pole and she finished really strong.”

Going off at odds of 5-1, Hostess paid $12.80, $5.40 and $3.20. The $1 exacta (4-1) returned $20.90, while the $2 trifecta (4-1-7) netted $109.40.

Hostess is out of the Vice Regent mare Charge d’Affaires. Though winless for more than a year, she hit the board twice in graded stakes competition in 2007.

“She really deserves this win," Bond said. "I could run her in a ‘two other than’ but she’s run so well in so many of those big races that we went ahead. She is at her best at this distance. When they shortened up The Very One I understood that safety comes first, but it was really too short for her, and she probably needed a tightener (after layoff).

"We’ll get her back to New York before we see what’s next, maybe the Sheepshead Bay (gr. IIT) again (Belmont, May 24). She was third in that race last year.”

Leap in the Sun was fourth, followed by Eclisse, Cliffrose, Duchess Royale and I'm in Love.

(Chart, Equibase)