10/29/2004 11:00PM

Hot pace sets up Bending Strings


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - A fast pace set things up perfectly for Bending Strings to win Saturday's $150,000 First Flight Handicap at Aqueduct by 5 3/4 lengths over Smokey Glacken.

Ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan, Bending Strings, a slight 2-1 favorite over Smokey Glacken, raced fifth down the backstretch of the seven-furlong First Flight. Smokey Glacken, Schedule, and Sensibly Chic, battled through swift early fractions. After a half-mile in 44.65 seconds, Bending Strings made a wide sweeping move around the turn and gained the lead in upper stretch.

Bending Strings ($6) is trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, who won the First Flight last year with Randaroo. Art Magnuson, McLaughlin's assistant, saddled Bending Strings.

"Seven-eighths is perfect for her," Magnuson said. "She ran well in the Acorn going a mile, but that might have been a little too far."

Passing Shot finished third, 2 3/4 lengths behind Smokey Glacken in the six-horse field. Sensibly Chic, Schedule, and Hidden Ransom completed the order of finish. The time was 1:22.13 over a fast track.

"It's nice when it works out like that," Bridgmohan said. "The race set up the way we thought it would. Speed was good. She really kicked when I asked her to."

A 3-year-old daughter of American Chance, Bending Strings is owned and bred by John D. Gunther. The Grade 2 First Flight was Bending Strings's second consecutive win in a stakes. On Oct. 2, she won the Grade 3 Safely Kept Breeders' Cup Handicap at Pimlico by 2 1/4 lengths over Smokey Glacken.

Host runs past Evening Attire

Host came from off the pace and swept by Evening Attire, the 3-1 favorite, in deep stretch to win the $150,000 Knickerbocker Handicap by 1 1/2 lengths.

Evening Attire, who was making only his second start on the turf in the 1 1/8-mile Knickerbocker, had a narrow lead with a furlong remaining, but Host, ridden by Chris DeCarlo, unleashed a strong run to collar him. Sailaway finished third, a head behind Evening Attire.

Jose Espinoza, aboard Evening Attire, said his mount handled the turf well.

"He liked it," Espinoza said. "He was a little bit fresh from the beginning. He got a little tired, but he handled it well."

L'Oiseau d'Argent, the pacesetter, finished fourth and was followed under the wire by Mr. Light, Dr. Kashnikow, Caesarion, Hotstufanthensome, and Balestrini. Denon, the 119-pound highweight, was scratched.

Host ($10) completed the distance in 1:49.95 over a firm course.

DeCarlo said Host was a bit reluctant to get into the race early.

"He wasn't really aggressive leaving there like I thought he might be," DeCarlo said.

A 4-year-old son of Hussonet, Host is owned by Eugene and Laura Melnyk and trained by Todd Pletcher. Pletcher's assistant, Tristan Barry, saddled Host.

"I told [DeCarlo] to ride him like a good turf horse," Barry said. "It didn't look like he was enjoying the trip on the inside. Once [Sailaway] on the outside cleared him, he got out and absolutely exploded."

In his previous start, Host finished third off a six-month layoff in the Grade 3 Cliff Hanger Handicap at The Meadowlands. The Grade 2 Knickerbocker was the first stakes win in this country for Host, who was bred in South America and a Group 1 winner in Chile last year.