10/12/2007 12:00AM

Society Hostess? Well, yes and no

EmailELMONT, N.Y. - All things being equal, Society Hostess would be the most likely winner of Sunday's $100,000 Xtra Heat Stakes at Belmont Park. But not all things are equal for the talented mare entering the six-furlong turf feature.

First, Society Hostess hasn't run since winning the Grade 3 Monrovia Handicap at Santa Anita on New Year's Day, 286 days ago. Second, she came out of that race with a chip in an ankle that required surgery. Third, as the 122-pound highweight, Society Hostess must spot 3 to 9 pounds to some competent rivals Sunday.

All these factors, plus a potential for soft turf, have Christophe Clement, trainer of Society Hostess, a bit concerned entering the Xtra Heat.

"She's doing well, but I would not call her 100opercent fit," Clement said. "Knowing the turf course is soft, plus the weight, it's a challenge. We take on a filly called Stormy Kiss, who's dead fit and doing great. I've got to give her weight; it's going to be tough."

Society Hostess has won 5 of 7 North American starts and has two narrow defeats. She is 2 for 2 at Belmont, both wins coming in overnight stakes at six furlongs. She has shown speed in the past, but her best races have come when she is taken off the pace and makes one late run.

Garrett Gomez, who is 3 for 4 on Society Hostess, has the call again. "Gomez has ridden her well before," Clement said. "You just have to put her to sleep early and then she finishes well."

Stormy Kiss and the 3-year-old Genuine Devotion are the fillies Society Hostess will most likely have to run down in the stretch. Stormy Kiss is 0 for 5 on turf, but she has lost three stakes by a head or a neck. She was very good in her two sprints over firm ground, but trainer Barclay Tagg isn't concerned if the course comes up less than firm on Sunday.

"I think she'll like soft turf, but I don't know if it'll be soft on Sunday," Tagg said. "I have her at Fair Hill and she seems to be [training] better over that track.''

Genuine Devotion has run twice on turf, finishing a troubled sixth and then winning a first-level allowance race on the lead.

"She had as bad a trip as you could have," trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said of her Aug. 25 loss at Saratoga. "Then she came back and ran six furlongs in 1:07.97. She's eligible for two-other-than, but we just thought the black type is there for us. It's a short field numbers-wise and she's a quality filly."