01/17/2008 12:00AM

Evening Attire faces obstacles

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Evening Attire will certainly be the sentimental choice and, given his class edge over six rivals, perhaps the post-time favorite for Saturday's $75,000 Aqueduct Handicap.

But the popular 10-year-old gelding will have several obstacles to overcome if he is to duplicate his victory in last month's Grade 3 Queens County Handicap. Foremost could be the distance. Evening Attire has raced only four times at 1 1/16 miles, and has not won at this distance since taking the 2002 Aqueduct. His late kick fell just short when second in this race in 2004 and 2006.

Trainer Pat Kelly acknowledges that this is not Evening Attire's best distance, but the veteran appears to be doing too well to leave him in the barn.

"He was pulling Danny's arms out this morning," Kelly said Wednesday, referring to exercise rider Danny Vogt.

Evening Attire may have gotten some help when Pink Viper joined the field. That could set up a possible pace battle between Pink Viper, who drew the rail, and Judiths Wild Rush, who breaks from post 3.

Then again, if Pink Viper duplicates his performance in the Brushing Up Stakes here on Jan. 3, he may well be the horse to beat. In that race, Pink Viper stalked the pacesetting Shopton Lane, and was tackled and passed by favored Stunt Man in the stretch, only to come back and beat Stunt Man by a length while earning a 107 Beyer Speed Figure. Pink Viper, a half-brother to the Grade 1-winning Flashy Bull, proceeded to gallop out superbly.

Though Pink Viper is coming back on only 16 days' rest, a bullet half-mile breeze on Wednesday signaled his readiness.

"He came out of his race really high on himself and he's just been training real super," trainer Joseph DeMola said. "He's put a lot of weight on. He kind of goes into a sulky state and drops weight, but the last two starts he's gained weight."

Judiths Wild Rush comes off a second in the Native Dancer Stakes at Laurel Park and now stretches out around two turns. He finished second to Happy Hunting - the 2006 Aqueduct Handicap winner - in an allowance race over the inner track last March.

"He blew both front shoes in that race, and he wasn't as good as he is now," said trainer Julian Canet, who is 0 for 17 at this meet with 5 seconds and 3 thirds.

Angliana, second in this race last year, makes his second start since undergoing surgery to repair a throat problem.