03/29/2004 12:00AM

Evening Attire due for a break


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Evening Attire, one of the most consistent handicap horses in New York the last few years, will try to change his luck and win his first race since August when he runs in Saturday's $200,000 Excelsior Breeders' Cup Handicap at Aqueduct.

Evening Attire's streak of bad luck began in November when he was disqualified from first and placed second for interference as the favorite in the Grade 2 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs. He finished second as the favorite in his next two races, the Queens County and Aqueduct handicaps. In his last start, Evening Attire nearly went over the rail during the running of the John B. Campbell Handicap at Laurel Park on Feb. 14. Running again as the favorite in the Campbell, Evening Attire finished third but was placed second through the disqualification of the runner-up, Rogue Agent, who severely impeded Evening Attire during the stretch run.

In the Grade 3 Excelsior, Evening Attire, a Grade 1 winner with $2 million in earnings, will face last year's Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, Funny Cide. Pat Kelly, Evening Attire's trainer, said he isn't rattled at the prospect of running against Funny Cide, last year's champion 3-year-old male.

"Heck, I've run against Medaglia d'Oro and Pleasantly Perfect," Kelly said. "Whoever is in there, he'll run against."

Kelly didn't entirely rule out running Evening Attire in Saturday's $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap instead of the Excelsior, but since he had not made any travel arrangements for the gelding as of Monday, a trip to Arkansas seemed unlikely.

"I imagine we will stay here," Kelly said.

Evening Attire, who will be ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan in the Excelsior, worked five furlongs in 1:02.22 at Belmont Park on Sunday.

The highweight in his last three starts, Evening Attire was assigned 119 pounds for the 1 1/8-mile Excelsior. Funny Cide will carry top weight of 120 pounds.

The other expected starters are Ground Storm (115), Host (114), Saarland (113), and Rogue Agent (112). Big Sid's Party and Nothing Flat are listed as possible.

Stymie winner Ground Storm worked five furlongs in 1:00.93 at Belmont on Monday.

Funny Cide was scheduled to arrive from Florida on Tuesday after working at Palm Meadows in the morning.

Storm Flag Flying's future uncertain

Storm Flag Flying came out of her third-place finish in last Saturday's Grade 2 Distaff Breeders' Cup with no obvious physical problems, according to Buzz Tenney, trainer Shug McGaughey's assistant.

The winner and favorite, Randaroo, beat Storm Flag Flying by 5 3/4 lengths.

"Physically, she's fine," Tenney said. "I don't think anybody knows why she didn't have her mind on running the other day."

Tenney said that McGaughey, who was not in New York on Monday, would evaluate Storm Flag Flying in the coming days before making decision about her future with her owner, Ogden Mills Phipps.

"He'll watch her the next couple of weeks to get an idea if she still wants to be a racehorse," Tenney said.

After winning the 2002 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at Arlington Park, Storm Flag Flying was named champion 2-year-old filly. She has won one race in four starts since the Breeders' Cup, an allowance race at Gulfstream Park earlier this year.

Throat surgery for Sunray Spirit

Sunray Spirit, eased for the second consecutive time when he ran in an allowance race on Sunday, will undergo throat surgery to correct a breathing problem.

Sunray Spirit, the winner of the 2001 Cowdin Stakes, was eased in the Paumonok Handicap in January because of a problem with his hind end. Making his first start since the Paumonok on Sunday, Sunray Spirit was eased in the stretch because of an entrapped epiglottis, according to his trainer, Kiaran McLaughlin.