05/30/2002 12:00AM

Kelly goes way back with 'Cap


Thirty years ago, while working as an assistant trainer to his father, Pat Kelly saddled Droll Role to victory in the 1972 Massachusetts Handicap.

While the roles have changed somewhat, the Kelly family hopes for the same result Saturday when it sends out Evening Attire in the 63rd running of the Mass Cap at Suffolk Downs. This time around, Pat Kelly is the trainer while his father, Tommy, a Hall of Fame trainer, is part-owner of Evening Attire along with Joe and Mary Grant of Quincy, Mass.

Pat Kelly, now 54, was just a few years out of college when he worked for his father. Kelly called himself "the head traveling lad" of Droll Role who, in 1972, raced in seven states and won the Grey Lag Handicap, Hawthorne Gold Cup, Canadian International, Washington D.C. International Stakes, and Tidal Handicap in addition to the Mass Cap.

"He was a good horse," Kelly said. "He beat some nice horses in Chicago and we went to the Mass Cap. We were bouncing all over the country in those days. We had a barn full of runners in those days."

Kelly noted that Droll Role was bred and owned by John Schiff. The same year Schiff bred Droll Role, he bred Hoist the Flag, but sold him. Hoist the Flag was voted the 2-year-old champion of 1970 but did not race past May of his 3-year-old season.

Droll Role won the Mass Cap by three lengths, rallying from just off the pace to get the job done. Kelly is envisioning the same kind of trip for Evening Attire. A son of Black Tie Affair, Evening Attire got good last fall, winning the Discovery Handicap at 65-1 over prohibitive favorite Street Cry.

Evening Attire continued his success during the winter, winning the Queens County and Aqueduct Handicaps. His streak ended in the Excelsior Handicap when he wound up five lengths in front after the opening half-mile and tired to finish fourth, beaten three lengths.

Kelly explained that Evening Attire was coming off an 11-week layoff and was too fresh in the Excelsior, dragging jockey Shaun Bridgmohan to the lead in the early stages. Evening Attire bounced back to win an off-the-turf allowance race by 10 lengths at Aqueduct on May 2, setting him up for this race.

"He's done everything very well lately," said Kelly, who ran fourth in the 1998 Mass Cap with Black Forest. "We hope it continues. We've stayed pretty close to home with him, and we haven't been facing Mongoose or Macho Uno or Include. We're stepping it up a notch."