01/15/2004 12:00AM

Count Evening Attire in


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - They may be leading him over there kicking and screaming, but the connections of Evening Attire ultimately decided to enter him in Saturday's Grade 3, $100,000 Aqueduct Handicap.

Earlier in the week, trainer Pat Kelly said , a multiple graded-stakes-winning gelding, was unlikely to run because Kelly was unhappy with the 122-pound weight assignment from racing secretary Mike Lakow. Although Evening Attire's six stakes victories include the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup, Kelly notes that Evening Attire has not won a stakes in 14 months.

But an injury to main rival Thunder Blitz - who beat Evening Attire in last month's Queens County Handicap - and the sight of Evening Attire's younger brother, Dr. Rockett, winning an allowance race by nine lengths Wednesday, prompted Kelly to put Evening Attire in the Aqueduct, which will go as race 4 of 10 and not be part of the pick six.

Lakow was obviously anticipating the cancellation of Friday's card due to extreme cold and does not want the Aqueduct Handicap, with "only" eight betting interests, as part of the pick six. If Friday is canceled, there will be a pick six carryover of $761,021 on Saturday, when temperatures should reach 30 degrees.

Evening Attire will break from post 4 under Shaun Bridgmohan and will spot his eight rivals 6 to 11 pounds. This will be Evening Attire's first start at 1 1/16 miles since he won the Aqueduct two years ago.

"It's a tough assignment with the weight and the shorter distance," Kelly said. "Everybody was pretty happy with Dr. Rockett's race, so we'll enter [Evening Attire] and if everything's good we'll probably give it a whirl."

Evening Attire is best when allowed to make one late run. He should get plenty of pace to run at Saturday, with Abreeze, Big Country, Boston Park, Rogue Agent, and Classic Endeavor in the field. Those horses all like to race on or close to the pace.

Based on his 5-4-0 mark from 11 inner-track starts, Classic Endeavor has to be considered. When he finished second to Abreeze in an optional claimer here Jan. 2, Classic Endeavor showed he could be effective from off the pace.

"I thought it was one of the best races he's run in a long time," said trainer Scott Schwartz. "Classic is going to be tough, I expect him to run very well."