Despite his pair of grade III stakes wins at Aqueduct to close out his 2001 season, Evening Attire was permitted to off at better than 3-1 odds to win Saturday's grade III, $109,200 Aqueduct Handicap.
The 4-year-old gelding posted a 2 ¾-length victory over Ground Storm while getting the 1 1/16 miles over a snow-covered track in 1:42 3/5. He paid $8.90, $4.70, and $3.90. Ground Storm returned $7.30 and $6.50, wth Tempest Fugit paying $7.30 for third. Private Ryan scratched.
"(Trainer) Pat (Kelly) has done some job with this horse," said winning jockey Shaun Bridgmohan. "This is the best he's looked. He settled great, but then down the backstretch, he saw daylight and just pulled me to the front. I knew I had a lot of horse left. Once he took the lead, he started looking around a bit. He saw the tire tracks. I couldn't believe he jumped them, but I was just trying to hold on. He ran huge today."
Owned by Joseph and Mary Grant and Hall of Fame trainer Thomas Kelly, Evening Attire has won four of 11 career starts, including his last three starts.
"I was surprised with how easy he did it today," Kelly said. "I thought he would have to wear horses down again. He was really training great, though, and it looks like he's really turned the corner. We're going to take our time with him and maybe sit out until the Stymie (grade II, $100,000, nine furlongs, Saturday, March 9th). Like Shaun (Bridgmohan) said, once he saw
daylight, he just pulled himself to the front."
Favored Balto Star made the early pace, setting fractions of :23 3/5 and :47 2/5 before eventually finishing fifth, beating only Unbridled Time and My Request.
"The track has been kind of dull lately, and he's the type of horse that likes to hear his hooves rattle," said Balto Star's jockey, Richard Migliore. "He made the lead rather easily and I didn't want to fight him and take him off his game. I knew I was in trouble at the half-mile pole. He just didn't feel that good underneath me."