01/16/2008 12:00AM

Evening Attire giving it a go at 10


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - At an age when most Grade 1 winners have long since been retired, the resilient gelding Evening Attire keeps right on going. He ended his 9-year-old campaign with a hard-charging head victory in last month's Grade 3 Queens County Handicap that woke up sleepy Aqueduct and had Internet chat rooms buzzing.

Saturday, Evening Attire is expected to make his 10-year-old debut in the $75,000 Aqueduct Handicap, a race he won in 2002. Before looking ahead, it's worth taking a look back at a career that has seen Evening Attire participate in 42 graded stakes - with nine wins - and register an unofficial record 29 triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures while winning over all four of the New York Racing Association's dirt surfaces.

Evening Attire, a son of Black Tie Affair owned by T.J. Kelly and Joseph and Mary Grant, has been around so long that three of his 12 jockeys - Robbie Davis, Mark Guidry, and Jose Santos - have retired.

On the eve of Evening Attire's 10-year-old debut, Pat Kelly, who took over the training of Evening Attire when his brother Tim retired in the fall of 2000, chose the following as Evening Attire's 10 most memorable moments.

1. Jockey Club Gold Cup, Sept. 28, 2002: In a field of eight that included Grade 1 winners Lido Palace and Harlan's Holiday, Evening Attire encountered traffic entering the far turn, split horses midway around that turn, then rallied along the rail in the stretch to win by 2 3/4 lengths for his first and only Grade 1 victory.

"Even then we knew Belmont wasn't his favorite track, but he was doing good, he was on a good roll, and the race set up good for him," Kelly said. "If you look back now, it's the only race he's ever won at Belmont, which is pretty strange."

Evening Attire is 1 for 17 over Belmont Park's dirt course.

2. Saratoga Breeders' Cup, Aug. 22, 2004: A then-record record crowd of 70,175 came to Saratoga to see the upstate debut of Funny Cide - and get a pint glass. But it was Evening Attire who spoiled the party by charging to a five-length victory in the Grade 2 stakes, which Evening Attire also won in 2002.

"I was just glad to win a race," Kelly said. "I had no problem with Funny Cide - that was a neat story. But it's just neat to win races at Saratoga."

Evening Attire has five career victories at Saratoga.

3. Discovery Handicap, Oct. 31, 2001: Before turning into a stone-cold closer, the 3-year-old Evening Attire showed he could be successful stalking the pace, as he raced close up along the inside and continued on along the rail outfinishing the talented Street Cry to win the Grade 3 Discovery Handicap by one length. As the longest shot on the board at 65-1, Evening Attire returned $133.

4. Queens County Handicap, Dec. 8, 2007: Around the far turn, Evening Attire began to launch a bid from well off the pace, and he continued on through the stretch to get up by a head over Barcola. A crowd of 5,677 was at Aqueduct, and many came outside to the rail to applaud the 9-year-old on his first graded stakes victory in 25 months.

"It's always nice when he wins because of the fans," Kelly said. "He's built up such a following. There were people outside. Normally nobody comes out except the guys hollering at the guy who got beat."

5. Clark Handicap, Nov. 28, 2003: Officially, Evening Attire has never won outside of New York, but he did cross the finish line first in the Grade 2 Clark at Churchill Downs. He was disqualified, however, for a bump in the stretch with Quest and placed second.

"He ran great," Kelly said. "I still don't know why we get DQ'd looking at the head-on."

6. Breeders' Cup Classic, Oct. 26, 2002: Coming off victories in the Saratoga Breeders' Cup and Jockey Club Gold Cup, Evening Attire was the "buzz" horse entering the Classic at Arlington Park. Sent off as the 9-2 third choice behind 3-year-olds Medaglia d'Oro and War Emblem, Evening Attire closed from 11th at the quarter pole to get fourth, beaten 9 3/4 lengths by longshot winner Volponi.

"He was still last almost at the top of the stretch and did one of those, 'Well, I'll get you fourth anyway,' " Kelly said. "It was muddy all week, then we had the rain early in the card, and it went from sloppy to in-between. I think he would have liked it fast; I think he would have liked it sloppy."

7. Stymie Handicap, March 3, 2007: After winning the Stuyvesant Handicap in 2005, Evening Attire lost his next seven races, including all five starts in 2006. He was turned out following a last-place finish in an off-the-turf allowance race in May 2006, and it seemed as if that might be it for him. But Evening Attire did not enjoy farm life, and he returned to Kelly's barn in the fall.

The Stymie was his second start off a layoff, and he closed powerfully to win the race by 2 1/2 lengths over Malibu Moonshine.

"That was a memorable race, because we weren't sure where we were at with him," Kelly said.

8. Aqueduct Handicap, Jan. 19, 2002: With falling snow creating a holiday-like atmosphere, Evening Attire dashed through the snowflakes around the far turn and opened up a six-length lead by the eighth pole en route to a 2 3/4-length victory. This despite jumping tire tracks left by the starting gate in the stretch.

"It was a driving snowstorm, and they came around where the gate was, the lights were on, and he jumped right over the tire tracks," Kelly said. "We thought he could be a jumper, but we've never gone there."

9. Stuyvesant Handicap, Nov. 19, 2005: Evening Attire entered this race having lost nine consecutive races. But this day he raced close up to a slow pace and was able to wear down favored West Virginia by a neck.

"Almost every race that he's won, he's up close over on the far turn, you can see him looming,'' Kelly said. The races he didn't run good in, he'd be last, struggling with guys pushing on him."

10. John B. Campbell Handicap, Feb. 14, 2004: In search of a distance race, Kelly shipped Evening Attire to Laurel for the $150,000 John Campbell Breeders' Cup Handicap, a 1 1/8-mile race at which he was sent off as the 2-5 favorite.

Evening Attire tried to rally along the inside under Shaun Bridgmohan, but he was shut off by Rogue Agent at the three-sixteenths pole and wound up finishing third. Evening Attire was put up to second by the stewards, who disqualified Rogue Agent.

"That was a dramatic race," Kelly said. "Most horses would have probably pulled up. He was about halfway over the fence. All his feet are off the ground, and he was leaning on the rail."