03/02/2006 1:00AM

Blinkers off Evening Attire

Evening Attire will carry high weight of 117 in the Stymie.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Trainer Pat Kelly will be trying to teach an old horse a new trick in Saturday's $65,000 Stymie Handicap at Aqueduct.

Evening Attire, 8, is the class of the field with $2.5 million in career earnings. While he has always been a closer, lately Evening Attire has spotted his competition too much real estate. For the Stymie, Kelly will remove the blinkers from Evening Attire in an effort to get him into the game quicker than usual.

will carry top weight of 117 pounds in the 1 1/8-mile Stymie and face five rivals, including stablemate Dr. Rocket (112). Evening Attire's sternest challenge may come from Salic Law, who will carry 113.

Evening Attire's lack of early interest reached a critical point last time out in the Grade 3 Aqueduct Handicap on Jan. 21. Evening Attire hesitated at the start and wound up dropping 18 lengths off the pace. He made a strong late run to cut the final deficit to one length behind Happy Hunting.

"He always breaks a step slow, but the last race was pretty bad," said Kelly. "I'm not sure why. He visited the starting gate a couple of days before the race but at the start, it was one-Mississippi, two-Mississippi."

In his most recent win, in the Grade 3 Stuyvesant Handicap at Aqueduct on Nov. 19, Evening Attire raced within several lengths of the pace before getting up to win by a neck.

Kelly hopes that taking the blinkers off puts Evening Attire into the race right from the break.

"He doesn't train in them and they've been on a long time," said Kelly. "What's going on at the gate might have something to do with the blinkers."

Evening Attire first donned the hood in his eighth start, a turf allowance race at Belmont Park on Oct. 13, 2001; he finished sixth. He got his first stakes win in the following race, the Grade 3 Discovery Handicap at the Big A and the blinkers have been on ever since.

The Stymie will be the 48th career start for Evening Attire, whose greatest victories include the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont in 2002 and the Grade 2 Saratoga Breeders' Cup in both 2002 and 2004.

will be trying to rebound from a disappointing race, a fourth-place finish in an optional claiming race here Feb. 1.

Salic Law, 5, was bet down to 3-5 that day, based on his outstanding record the previous winter over the inner track: two wins and a near-miss second in three starts.

Salic Law, who ran exclusively on the turf during the summer for trainer Tom Albertrani, came back from a freshening to finish fourth at Aqueduct on Jan. 5. He lost by only two lengths, an effort that appeared to set him up nicely for a strong performance Feb. 1, but he never ran his race.

Reserved behind the pacesetting Chilly Rooster, Salic Law was in traffic throughout and jockey Eibar Coa steadied the horse in the lane when the leader weakened.

"He never had a chance to use himself or get into the race," said Albertrani. "He found himself in tight the entire race. It didn't play the way we were expecting."

Completing the field are (113), a winner of consecutive allowance races, Chilly Rooster (112), and Manchurian (112).