In what will likely be the final race of his multiple stakes-winning career, 8-year-old Host heads a field of 11 in the $125,000 Appleton Handicap (gr. IIIT) Jan. 27 at Gulfstream Park.
The Appleton is a one-mile event on the turf, open to 4-year-olds and up.
Host, who was bred in Chile by Haras De Pirque, has earned $1,136,408 for Eugene and Laura Melnyk’s Melnyk Racing Stable. Late last year, it was announced that the chestnut horse would soon be heading to Australia, where he will stand for a syndicate at Swettenham Stud in the state of Victoria.
A son of Hussonet, Host had raced mainly for Todd Pletcher since 2004, but was handed over to trainer Tom Albertrani prior to the Dec. 1 Tropical Turf Handicap (gr. IIIT), where he finished a disappointing eighth at Calder Race Course.
But in his second start for Albertrani, Host rallied in deep stretch under John Velazquez to take the Jan. 4 Canadian Turf Handicap (gr. IIIT) in dramatic fashion at Gulfstream Park. It was his fourth graded stakes win in the United States (he also had a pair of group victories in Chile as a 3-year-old) and tenth win in 27 lifetime starts.
“He trained better going into the Canadian Turf,” Albertrani said Jan. 24. “I had only had him for a short time (before the Tropical Turf) and, even though he was well when he came to me, it looked like he might have been feeling the effects of the Breeders' Cup (Mile, where he finished fifth Oct. 27).
“He has been a better, more aggressive horse in his recent training. The Canadian Turf set up perfect for him with a good, strong pace. We’ll need that same pace in this one so that he can make his big, late move.
“I can’t recall getting an older, established horse like this since I’ve been training in the states. He has been a great addition to the barn.”
Host, who is out of the Roy mare Colonna Traiana and was eighth in last year's Appleton, will break from post three and carry a high weight of 120 pounds with Eibar Coa in the irons.
Competition for Host could come from a second international horse, Elusive Fort, a 6-year-old son of Fort Wood. Elusive Fort is a three-time group I winner in South Africa, where he was 7-1-0 from 13 starts.
Elusive Fort made his final start in South Africa last May before he was shipped to Martin Wolfson in Florida. Making his United States debut Jan. 11 at Gulfstream, Elusive Fort was fifth in allowance competition, but was bumped hard in the first turn of the one-mile race before making up solid ground in the stretch.
Rene Douglas will ride the dark bay horse, breaking from post eight.
Pete Axthelm Stakes winner Fearless Eagle is also a contender. The 4-year-old Invisible Ink colt made a decisive four-wide move in the 7 1/2-furlong event Dec. 29 at Calder, scoring by a half length over Buffalo Man, another Appleton entrant. Trained by Edward Plesa Jr., Fearless Eagle is 4-2-0 from 11 lifetime starts, all but one of them coming in Florida. Eddie Castro rides.
The pace could be set by 5-year-old gelding Jet Propulsion, who was ninth in the Canadian Turf.
The Appleton is named for prominent Thoroughbred breeder and owner Arthur I. Appleton of Bridlewood Farm in Florida. Appleton died Jan. 15 at the age of 92.
$125,000 Appleton Handicap (gr. IIIT, Race 8, 4:42 p.m.), Four-Year-Olds & Up, One Mile (Turf)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Buffalo Man (ON), 117, Edgar S. Prado
2. Fearless Eagle (FL), 118, Eddie Castro
3. Host (CHI), 120, Eibar Coa
4. Croton Road (KY), 116, Manuel Aguilar
5. Terrific Storm (KY), 117, John R. Velazquez
6. Mysterious Peintre (FR), 116, Kent J. Desormeaux
7. Brooklyn Boy (KY), 115, Jose Lezcano
8. Elusive Fort (SAF), 116, Rene R. Douglas
9. Magic Mecke (FL), 117, Elvis Trujillo
10. Jet Propulsion (FL), 115, Jorge F. Chavez
11. British Blue (KY), 115, Javier Castellano