06/05/2003 11:00PM

Brooklyn suits 'Attire'

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ELMONT, N.Y. - There's a good chance that Evening Attire, one of the leading handicap horses in the country last year, will make his 5-year-old debut in next Saturday's $250,000 Brooklyn Handicap at Belmont Park.

Evening Attire was entered main-track-only in the $400,000 Manhattan Handicap on the Belmont Stakes undercard. In the unlikely event that the Grade 1 Manhattan was moved to the main track, Evening Attire was expected to run.

If not, Evening Attire will work early next week, and his trainer, Pat Kelly, will evaluate the weights for the Grade 2 Brooklyn and make a decision about running.

"We are definitely considering it," Kelly said Friday morning outside his Belmont barn. "He has had some good works the last couple of weeks and seems pretty close to a race now. He's feeling good and bouncing around."

After a winter vacation on a Pennsylvania farm, Evening Attire returned to Kelly's barn in March and has been breezing steadily since early May.

Evening Attire, owned by Kelly's father, Tom, and Mary and Joseph Grant, earned in excess of $1.3 million last year. He won five races, including the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup, the Grade 2 Saratoga Breeders' Cup, and the Grade 3 Aqueduct Handicap. After finishing fourth in the Breeders' Cup Classic, Evening Attire ended his season with an eight-length win in the off-the-turf Red Smith at Aqueduct.

The 1 1/8-mile Brooklyn is shaping up to be a terrific race. Among the expected starters are Breeders' Cup Classic winner Volponi, Harlan's Holiday, Saarland, Full Mandate, and Iron Deputy. Windsor Castle is a possibility. Weights are due out Sunday.

Prado to ride Saarland

With John Velazquez electing to remain on Harlan's Holiday for the Brooklyn, trainer Shug McGaughey has named Edgar Prado to ride Saarland in the race.

It will be the first time anybody other than Velazquez has ridden Saarland in a race. McGaughey said Saarland is not a difficult horse to ride.

"You just got to keep him interested, that's the only thing,'' said McGaughey, who planned on working Saarland Saturday morning, weather permitting.

Saarland, a son of Unbridled, is coming off a neck loss to Aldebaran in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap in the slop on May 26. McGaughey believes the extra furlong of the Brooklyn should only help Saarland, whose lone stakes win came in the nine-furlong Remsen two years ago.

McGaughey will also be represented in next Saturday's Grade 3, $100,000 Hill Prince Stakes on turf with Charge. A 3-year-old son of Dynaformer, Charge is one of the few horses McGaughey trains that does not belong to the Phipps family, Claiborne Farm, Helen Alexander, or Stuart Janney.

Charge is owned and bred by Wheelock Whitney, a longtime friend of McGaughey who lives in Minnesota. "He asked me to take a horse for him and I said I would,'' McGaughey said.

Charge finished ninth in his debut on dirt last November at Aqueduct. But he showed some promise on the turf, finishing fifth in a maiden race on Jan. 9 at Gulfstream before winning his maiden and then the listed Caltech Stakes, also at Gulfstream.

Region of Merit to Delaware

Region of Merit, who at one time was considered a Kentucky Derby contender, will most likely make his next start in next Saturday's Leonard Richards Stakes at Delaware Park, trainer Christophe Clement said.

Region of Merit reeled off three straight wins earlier this spring, including a victory in the Tampa Bay Derby in mid-March. He was removed from consideration for the Derby after finishing fourth in the Arkansas Derby.

Following that race, Region of Merit was sent to Calumet Farm for a three-week freshening before returning to Clement's Belmont Park barn. Clement said Region of Merit's status for the Leonard Richards could be determined by a weekend workout.

"If he breezes well, we'll go to Delaware,'' Clement said. "He's a fit horse. He ran on April 15, he came back to us in mid-May and has been training well.''

Man From Wicklow strains ligament

Grade 1 winner Man From Wicklow, who was expected to run in the Manhattan, wasn't entered because he strained a ligament in his left foreleg.

Man From Wicklow, a 6-year-old gelding with $609,395 in earnings, had swelling in the leg after a work at Aqueduct on Tuesday. An ultra-sound examination revealed a strain in the ligament located below the ankle and in back of the pastern bone.

"It's something that could [lay him up] for a week or six months," said Man From Wicklow's trainer and owner, Rick Violette. "It's not a common injury and we have to wait and see. He's very sound when he is jogged. We'll leave him in the stall and do [shock wave] and ice therapy. He'll be reevaluated in seven to 10 days."

Violette reports that Fund of Funds, the Illinois Derby runner-up, is recovering nicely from a small lesion tear on the tendon in his left foreleg.

"He's not back in training yet, but he has made a miraculous recovery," Violette said. "I really believe he will be able to come back at the same level. Three weeks after the injury the [tear] was 70 percent smaller and two weeks after that, there basically was no lesion."

Violette said Fund of Funds has been on stall rest since the injury and soon will be hand-walked.

In his last start, Fund of Funds finished second in the Illinois Derby, beaten four lengths by Ten Most Wanted.

Rodeo Licious captures Fashion

Rodeo Licious got the week off to a fast start for the New York breeding program, roaring out of the gate on top and cruising to a 1 1/2-length victory in the $80,000 Fashion Stakes for juvenile fillies Thursday.

Renaissance Lady, a regally bred daughter of A.P. Indy, had to settle for second, eight lengths ahead of 3-5 favorite Bikini Wiggle.

Under Richard Migliore, Rodeo Licious ($16.20) set fractions of 21.88 seconds and 45.26 and covered the five furlongs in 58.19 over a muddy track.

Also Thursday, Trebizond, who won the Grade 1 Hard Scuffle in his last start over jumps, added another Grade 1 to his record by winning the $106,150 Meadow Brook Hurdle.

Trebizond, the second choice in the field of 11 jumpers, won by 3 1/4 lengths over longshot Blasphemous. It was another neck back to Mr Perkolater in third. Trebizond, who was ridden by Tom Foley, covered the 2 1/2 miles in 4:57.65 over a soft course and returned $9.60.

Trebizond is trained by Kathy Neilson and owned by William Lickle.

Senor Melchor, the 9-5 favorite, fell at the ninth fence. Preemptive Strike fell at the 10th fence. Naughty Prince and Fighting Star left the course.

* Jockey Victor Carrero was taken to North Shore University Hospital for X-rays after his mount in Friday's fourth race, Wild Review, fractured his left foreleg around the final turn and was euthanized.

- additional reporting by David Grening