02/07/2007 12:00AM

At age 9, Evening Attire's not done yet

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. - The days of competing against elite company are long behind Evening Attire, but apparently his desire to compete is not. Thus the 9-year-old gelding, who won the 2002 Jockey Club Gold Cup, returns to the races Friday in an optional claiming race at Aqueduct.

The $58,000 race, run at 1 1/16 miles over the inner track, will be Evening Attire's first start since last May 12 when he finished last in an off-the-turf optional claimer at Belmont. He was turned out on a Saratoga County farm shortly thereafter, but apparently did not like the easy life and conveyed that to his connections.

"About two hours after being turned out he was bored," trainer Pat Kelly said. "He's a competitive guy, always has been. We're not under any illusions, we're just happy to have him back. Who knows? How old was The Tin Man last year? You never know.

"He's a neat horse, he's been great to us, he seems like he likes what he's doing," Kelly added. "We do have the gate thing to deal with, and Jose [Santos] getting hurt was kind of tough, but the other Jose [Espinoza] has ridden him."

Though he's never been alert away from the gate, Evening Attire's 2006 campaign was compromised by a bevy of slow breaks. He did finish a fast-closing second in the Aqueduct Handicap, a race he won in 2002. Evening Attire's last win came in the Grade 3 Stuyvesant Handicap in 2005.

"He's been breaking a step slow all his life," Kelly said. "That's part of the deal."

Though Friday's race will be run under allowance conditions, this field is stakes-caliber. Mr. Whitestone and Monopoly Pricing finished second and third, respectively, behind Liquor Cabinet in a Jan. 4 allowance race. Liquor Cabinet came back to dominate in the Aqueduct Handicap in his next start.

Mr. Whitestone came back to finish second, beaten a neck by Wild Jam, in a six-furlong allowance race. Monopoly Pricing came back to win a third-level allowance race by two lengths, his fifth win from seven starts over the inner track.

Mayan King finished a disappointing fifth in the Aqueduct Handicap after running a solid second in an allowance race at Laurel.

Dazzling Dr. Cevin ships up from Florida, where two starts back he was beaten a nose in a restricted stakes at Calder. Most recently, Dazzling Dr. Cevin finished fifth in the Grade 3 Fred Hooper, which was run over a sloppy track.

Trapped Again and New York Hero complete the field.