Evening Attire showed once again that he likes Saratoga. The 6-year-old gelded son of Black Tie Affair squared off with last year's champion Funny Cide and Bowman's Band in the stretch and came home a five-length winner in the good time of 2:00.83 in the 1 1/4-mile Saratoga Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II).
Although the win was his fifth in eight starts at the upstate New York track, it marked his first triumph against added-money company at the Spa. Evening Attire last crossed the finish line first in the Clark Handicap (gr. II) at Churchill Downs in November, but was disqualified. His last bona fide win came at Saratoga last summer in an allowance event. First-place earnings of $150,000 in the $250,000 Saratoga Breeders' Cup upped his career mark to $2,269,990 earned from 11 wins and 23 placings in 35 starts.
Ridden by Cornelio Velasquez, Evening Attire was kept close to the leaders in fifth place before being sent to challenge the leaders around the farm turn. Funny Cide, off at even-money and the 118-pound topweight, and Bowman's Band were on equal terms after they reached the stretch. They soon were joined by Evening Attire, who kicked it into high gear and won drawing away.
The time was four-fifths of a second slower than the 2:00 track record. Following Bowman's Band were Alumni Hall, 2002 Belmont Stakes (gr. I) Sarava, Congrats, and early pacesetter The Lady's Groom. Presidentialaffair was scratched.
Evening Attire, who toted 115 pounds, is trained by Pat Kelly and is a homebred owned by Kelly's father, Hall of Fame trainer Thomas Kelly, in partnership with Joseph and Mary Grant. Evening Attire, who was produced from the Our Native mare Concolour, paid $17.00 to win and keyed a $35.40 exacta and a $99.50 trifecta.
Evening Attire is now 11-10-3 from 35 starts with earnings of $2,269,990.
"This was a great confidence builder for him," said trainer Kelly.
"I knew I had a lot of horse at the eighth pole," Velasquez said. "I was waiting, waiting to make my move. He is strong the last three sixteenths."
"He lost ground all the way," said Barclay Tagg, the trainer for Funny Cide. "If you have to go wide around both turns in any race, it's a disadvantage. I thought he had a shot at the top of the stretch, but I knew he lost a lot of ground."
Kelly said that Evening Attire would likely be pointed to the $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) on Oct. 2 at Belmont Park. Evening Attire won the Jockey Club Gold Cup in 2002.
"He's very well suited for the mile and a quarter," Kelly said. "He's kind of an old throwback horse: the longer the better. I knew he was into it today."