Trainer Pat Kelly was about to take Evening Attire out of stakes competition, to try the 10-year-old gelding in a few allowance races or to pick spots in turf routes as a main-track-only entry. But the seasoned runner turned in such a solid performance in his last start that NYRA stakes coordinator Andrew Byrnes was able to convince Kelly to tackle the $200,000 Brooklyn Handicap (gr. II) at Belmont Park.
Coming off a strong runner-up performance in Belmont’s May 15 Fit to Fight Stakes, Evening Attire enters the June 6 Brooklyn against a field of seven runners including Edward Evans’ 4-year-old Nite Light, a likely favorite after winning four of his last five starts for trainer Todd Pletcher, and Giussepe Iadisernia’s Delosvientos, a 5-year-old Siphon gelding who got the best of Evening Attire last time out.
Evening Attire was 2 ¼ lengths behind Delosvientos in the 1 ½-mile Fit to Fight, when he broke slowly and trailed the field before making a three-wide move to get up for second-best. In 67 starts for Kelly, there’s not much the son of Black Tie Affair hasn’t done. But one move he hasn’t quite tackled is the break from the gate.
“Unfortunately he usually gives the youngsters an advantage when he breaks, especially when he’s on the inside,” Kelly said of the gelding, who has drawn post one for the Brooklyn. “He’s very tall and his first jump out of the gate is kind of a hop, because he’s got stilt legs and it just takes him a minute to get going. In the past it hasn’t hurt him, but he’s left a lot of money on the table.”
In addition to his poor gate skills – a situation Kelly hoped to remedy by sending the gelding to a four-furlong breeze from the gate May 31 – Evening Attire is also just one for 18 at Belmont Park, where he won the 2002 edition of the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I).
“2002 is a long time ago, and he just got real lucky that day,” Kelly said. “The pace collapsed and it was muddy and cold, a few of the things he likes. He came flying and got the money, but the rest of his Belmont races haven’t been that good. Still, he ran so nice in his last start, and it’s tough to find races as long as the Brooklyn – and he’ll run all day, so we’re giving it a shot.”
Evening Attire carries 114 pounds, three less than Nite Light’s 117. The son of Thunder Gulch comes into the Brooklyn after finishing second in the April 5 Excelsior Handicap (gr. III).
Third in the Excelsior was Winning Move Stables’ Angliana, a 6-year-old son of Giant’s Causeway whose most recent effort was a runner-up effort in a 1 1/16-mile allowance at Belmont May 9. Trained by Gary Contessa, Angliana seeks his first graded stakes win after a score in the Aqueduct Handicap.
Also in the Brooklyn are Phipps Stable’s Sightseeing, third last time out in the April 30 Westchester Handicap (gr. III) at one mile, and Lewis Pell and Michael Eigner’s Imawildandcrazyguy, winner of the May 4 Sumter Stakes at Calder in his last start.
Jayeff B Stables’ Awfully Smart, third in the May 10 Brandywine Stakes at Delaware Park for trainer Alan Goldbert, completes the field.
$200,000 Brooklyn Handicap (gr. II, race 9, approximate post 5:12 p.m.), 1 ½ miles for older horses, dirt
PP, Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Evening Attire, 114, Cornelio Velasquez
2. Delosvientos, 116, Eibar Coa
3. Angliana, 115, Rajiv Maragh
4. Sightseeing, 115, Edgar Prado
5. Imawildandcrazyguy, 114, Jeffrey Sanchez
6. Nite Light, 117, John Velazquez
7. Awfully Smart, 115, Javier Castellano