11/14/2001 12:00AM

Kelly a feature player again


JAMAICA, N.Y. - While the year is winding down for most trainers, Pat Kelly is just getting started.

Coming off the worst period of his 24-year training career, the 53-year-old Kelly has been winning with more frequency the last few months. His five wins - including three stakes - from Oct. 13 through Nov. 11, are one shy of his win total for the year 2000.

And he's not done yet.

In the next three weeks, Kelly could be represented in stakes from coast to coast with the trio of Evening Attire and half-sisters Cozzy Corner and Riskaverse.

Cozzy Corner, who dead-heated for win in the Grade 3 Valley View Stakes last month at Keeneland, is expected to run in Saturday's $150,000 Mrs. Revere Stakes at Churchill Downs. The following week, Kelly will be in California to run Miss Grillo Stakes winner Riskaverse in the $200,000 Miesque Stakes at Hollywood Park. Kelly also is considering running Discovery Handicap winner Evening Attire in the $100,000 Queens County Handicap Dec. 1 at Aqueduct.

Kelly has won 26 races from 233 starts this year, and his horses have earned $1.15 million.

"It's always good to win; it's no fun finishing second or third or not finishing," said Kelly. "I've been around good horses all my life. I know what to do with a good horse. All of us back here are dependent on the horses."

For most of his career, Kelly trained the good horses of Live Oak Plantation. Kelly and Live Oak enjoyed great success in the early 1990's, particularly with half-brothers Sultry Song and Solar Splendor, who won Grade 1 races on the same day at Belmont Park in the fall of 1992.

But in March 2000, Live Oak fired Kelly and dispersed its horses to other trainers, including Bill Badgett and Bill Mott. Kelly estimates that he earned Live Oak about $1 million in purses in 1999. For the year, Kelly's stable earned $1.57 million and had a record of 35-31-34 from 240 starts.

After Live Oak fired him, Kelly had only six horses. Though his stable grew back to 15 by the middle of the year, Kelly won just six races from 123 starts in 2000.

"We did the best we could," Kelly said. "We were in a rebuilding year, as they say in football."

For a coach to rebuild, he needs players. For a trainer, he needs horses. Two of the key components to Kelly's resurgence have been Cozzy Corner, a 3-year-old, and Riskaverse, a 2-year-old. Both are out of the dam The Bink, whom Kelly trained for another long-term client, Fox Ridge Farm.

Cozzy Corner, by Cozzene, has a 4-1-4 record from 16 starts and earnings of $211,099. Since Sept. 3, she has won the Just Smashing Stakes at The Meadowlands and the Valley View Stakes, and she should be a contender in Saturday's Mrs. Revere.

Her younger sister Riskaverse, a daughter of Dynaformer, confirmed her preference for the turf with a 1 1/2-length victory in the Miss Grillo Stakes on Nov. 4. Prior to that, she finished a well-beaten third behind You in the Grade 1 Frizette on dirt.

Kelly took over the training of Evening Attire this year from his brother Tim when he retired from training and took a job with the New York Racing Association. A son of Black Tie Affair, Evening Attire had only one win in his first seven starts. Kelly tried him on the turf Oct. 12, and the horse finished sixth, beaten three lengths. Kelly felt Evening Attire handled the distance and the two turns well, which is why he ran him back in the Discovery, on the main track, New York's last stakes of the year restricted to 3-year-olds.

At 65-1, Evening Attire upset favorite Street Cry, who was returning from a layoff, by one length.

"He's a young horse," Kelly said. "He reminds me a lot of some of the Live Oak horses that got better as they got older. It was a pretty impressive race to do what he did. The talent's there and distance is no problem."

Kelly said he isn't sure whether Evening Attire will run back in allowance company or the Queens County Handicap.

He's just happy to have such decisions to make again.