01/02/2008 12:00AM

Host out to regain past glory


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Trainer Tom Albertrani had Host in his barn for less than a week when the old veteran finished a disappointing eighth as the 8-5 favorite in Calder's Grade 3 Tropical Turf Handicap. But with five weeks to get better acquainted with his recent acquisition, Albertrani is hoping for an improved performance when he sends Host out as one of the favorites in Friday's $100,000 Canadian Turf Handicap at Gulfstream Park. The Grade 3 Canadian is the first of 29 graded stakes at the 2008 meet, which was to begin Thursday.

Host, who turned 8 Tuesday, has spent most of his career with trainer Todd Pletcher, coming to the United States from his native Chile at 4. Host, who has more than $1 million in earnings, scored his most important win in the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile in 2005.

Host was transferred to Albertrani's barn in late November following his fifth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Mile and a brief stint on the farm of owner Eugene Melnyk.

"He didn't have a rough trip in his last start at Calder, but he did get in a little tight and had to steady a bit on the far turn when it seemed like he was gaining some momentum," said Albertrani. "We've had him on our program now for another five weeks and it looks like he's doing well. So hopefully he'll come back to his old form on Friday."

John Velazquez, who rode Host many times for Pletcher, including to a second-place finish in the 2007 Canadian, will reunite with his old friend, who shares high weight of 116 pounds with Thorn Song and Kiss the Kid.

Thorn Song couldn't be doing better. The son of Unbridled's Song has won 4 of his 6 starts since being switched to the grass by trainer Dale Romans in June. He was beaten just a neck and a length in his only losses in that span. Thorn Song closed out his 2007 campaign with his best effort yet, a half-length win over Cosmonaut in Churchill Downs's Grade 3 River City Handicap.

Kiss the Kid turns back in distance after running third in Calder's 1 1/2-mile W. L. McKnight Handicap on Dec. 15. Kiss the Kid, who finished a length behind Host when fourth in the 2007 Canadian Turf, set the pace through midstretch before succumbing grudgingly in the Grade 2 McKnight.

National Captain, runner-up in the Tropical Turf, is among other key contenders, as are Imawildandcrazyguy, Jet Propulsion, and True to Tradition.