On Tuesday, she will be Hip No. 365 in Keeneland’s November Breeding Stock Sale. But before she gets on the plane for Kentucky, William L. Clifton Jr.’s 5-year-old mare Hostess has one more mission, and that’s to return to the winner’s circle one more time in Saturday’s 52nd running of the Grade 3, $150,000 Long Island Handicap on Aqueduct Racetrack’s turf.

The strapping daughter of Chester House was seventh behind Folk Opera in the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor at Woodbine on October 4, and trainer H. James Bond is hoping she will return to her usually consistent self as she takes on eight fillies and mares in the mile and a half Long Island.

“For whatever reason, Woodbine is a course she doesn’t seem to handle,” said Bond of Hostess, who won the Grade 3 Glens Falls Handicap at Saratoga Race Course in her previous start. “Plus, they went the half in 51 and change, and going a mile and a quarter, that’s not her style. One and a half miles is more to her liking – she can run all day long, even without any pace.”

With two graded stakes victories – she also took the Grade 3 Orchid at Gulfstream Park in March -- and two third place finishes behind Mauralakana in the Sheepshead Bay and New York Handicaps, both Grade 2 events, Hostess improved markedly from 2007 to 2008.

“Actually, she was supposed to go in the same sale last year, but I told Mr. Clifton she was going to be six lengths better this year,” said Bond of Hostess, who drew post No. 2 under jockey Rajiv Maragh. “She’s run against some of the nicer fillies all year long and when she gets pace, she’s there.”

In the Long Island, that role appears to fall to Jane Schosberg’s Sunshine for Life, who went wire to wire in her last two starts including the Grade 3 Athenia Handicap at Belmont on October 11. Trained by Rick Schosberg, the daughter of Giant’s Causeway will be ridden again by Channing Hill, from post No. 3.

The race will again have its usual pronounced international flavor, with imports Shake the Moon (GER) and Astrologie (FR), who will run as an entry for Haras du Mezeray, making their U.S. debuts along with Alain Falourd’s La Hernanda (IRE). Peter Harris’s Marzelline (IRE), fourth in the Grade 1 Yellow Ribbon Invitational behind Wait a While, raced in England in 2007 and Darley Stable’s Criticism (GB), the Athenia runner-up, is making only her second American start.

A 4-year-old daughter of Machiavellian, Criticism compiled a 4-4-2 mark from 10 starts in France, many of which were against males.

“She finished up well in the Athenia, especially coming off a (10-month) layoff,” said trainer Tom Albertrani, who will also saddle Triple Diamond Stables’ Sentimental Union. “Hopefully, it will have set her up for the Long Island.”

Like Hostess, Lawrence Goichman’s J’ray made her last start in the E.P. Taylor, closing from eighth to finish fourth behind Folk Opera, Callwood Dancer, and Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf runner-up Sealy Hill.

“I thought she ran very well at Woodbine,” said trainer Todd Pletcher, who will give rider Joe Bravo a leg up on J’ray, who drew post No. 8. “There was no pace at all to run at, and the Canadian form held up well in the Filly & Mare Turf.”

While the Long Island may be the last start for Hostess should she be purchased as a broodmare, the Keeneland sale has been gaining popularity as an important stop for buyers looking for proven racehorses. Two years ago, then 3-year-old Spring at Last was purchased for $675,000 and went on to win the Grade 2 Etisalat Godolphin Mile and the Grade 1 Donn Handicap.

“That’s my early Christmas wish,” said Bond. “If she is sold, whoever, buys her, I hope they let me train her for one more year.”


The field for the Grade 3, $150,000 Long Island Handicap:
PP Horse Jockey Weight Trainer
1 La Hernanda (IRE) Eddie Castro 114 Christophe Clement
2 Hostess Rajiv Maragh 120 H. James Bond
3 Sunshine for Life Channing Hill 116 Rick Schosberg
4a Shake the Moon (GER)Jose Lezcano 112 Andre Fabre
5 Criticism (GB) Javier Castellano 116 Tom Albertrani
6 Sentimental Union Edgar Prado 111 Tom Albertrani
7a Astrologie (FR) Alan Garcia 115 Andre Fabre
8 J’ray Joe Bravo 122 Todd Pletcher
9 Marzelline (IRE) Tyler Baze 116 Ben Cecil