03/17/2004 1:00AM

Kimmel's Host is Host to like most


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - It's gotten to the point at Gulfstream Park this winter where it's become tough just to keep your Hosts straight.

The Chilean-bred Host is trained by Todd Pletcher and had his sights set on next Saturday's UAE Derby in Dubai only to have those plans changed at the last minute because of a bad blood test. He may now resurface locally, in the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Handicap on April 3.

The Kentucky-bred is trained by John Kimmel and may not be quite as well known as his Chilean-born namesake. But if his most recent performance is any indication he may prove the horse to beat in Friday's $36,000 feature, a second-level allowance at 1 3/8 miles on the turf.

Kimmel is no stranger to this type of confusion. He also has the New York-bred Statement, a multiple allowance winner on the turf, in his barn. Trainer Christophe Clement trains an Irish-bred grass specialist by the same name.

"I got a call from an owner last week who said he never knew I had horses stabled at Palm Meadows after he saw Host's name on the Palm Meadows work tab," said Kimmel. "Of course, that one belonged to Todd."

Kimmel's Host returned from an 11-week layoff to score a game head victory going 1 1/2 miles in a first-level allowance on March 1. The win came in only his second start on turf.

"He probably would have won the first time on grass if he wasn't trapped down on the inside so long," said Kimmel. "But at least the performance gave us a good barometer that he'd like the grass. Obviously we're bringing him back a little quick following a hard effort after a long layoff, but he's doing great and you just don't get too many opportunities to run a mile and three-eighths on the turf around here."

Edgar Prado gets a return call from Kimmel on Host, the likely favorite.

Host's toughest competition figures to come from , who finished third going 12 furlongs in a similar second-level allowance on Feb. 22. The effort earned him a career best 86 Beyer Speed Figure.

Admiral Slew, Stormy Ray, and Devil's Bandit are among the other key contenders in a field that also includes Rhythmic Motion, What a Dr., Forest Legend, Shagwong, and Springfield Boy.

Admiral Slew has trained well at Palm Meadows for his first race since November. A son of Seattle Slew, Admiral Slew will be making his first start under the training of Tim Hills. He is a versatile sort who has won on both turf and dirt.