01/30/2005 1:00AM

Host takes Mac Diarmida Handicap

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Matt Dean/EQUI-PHOTO
Host with Javier Castellano riding win the $100,000 Mac Diarmida Handicap at Gulfstream Park over Navesink River and Jorge Chavez on Sunday.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Host outdueled Navesink River through a protracted stretch drive at Gulfstream Park in Sunday's Grade 3, $100,000 , a race that was marred by the fatal breakdown of longshot In Hand and apparent serious injuries suffered by his jockey, Gary Boulanger.

In Hand broke down while in midpack with three furlongs remaining in the 1 3/8-mile grass race. He was euthanized. Another runner, Macaw, fell over the prone In Hand, but he continued on after dislodging his rider, Eddie Castro.

Castro was not seriously injured. Boulanger, however, was taken to a local hospital for surgery, this after track officials first announced -- both to the press and the public -- that he had nothing worse than a laceration to his head.

Host ($25) and Navesink River traded volleys throughout the Mac Diarmida, with Host, under jockey Javier Castellano, prevailing by a neck in 2:12.83 on the firm course. Burning Sun, the 8-5 favorite in the 12-horse field, was another three-quarters of a length back in third.

The victory was the fifth in 19 lifetime starts for Host, but marked his first stakes victory. He is unbeaten racing on grass at Gulfstream in three starts. John Kimmel trains Host for a partnership that includes his father, Caesar, and Philip Solondz.

Host had not raced since finishing a close fourth in the John Henry Stakes at the Meadowlands on Oct. 29.

"He got some time off after that last start that wasn't supposed to be," Kimmel said. "He got a Bute shot, and the veterinarian shot him outside the vein, so he swelled up real bad and missed about a month. But he's come back well.

"He doesn't train that well on the dirt, but then when you wonder if you've got him tight enough, he gives you a real nice race when he gets out on the grass like he did today. I think he's got a great future. We're looking for a real nice campaign from him this year."