For the second time this fall, Aqueduct Racetrack has been dressed in Evening Attire. But what was once thought to be nothing more than a simple gray coat has now become top of the line and getting more expensive with each appearance. Dismissed at 65-1 in the Oct. 31 Discovery Handicap (gr. III) for 3-year-olds, Evening Attire popped out of nowhere to defeat Godolphin's heavily favored Street Cry. It was only his second victory in nine career starts. Trainer Pat Kelly could have looked at the victory as a fluke, as most everyone else did, and put Evening Attire back in mothballs for a while. Instead, he brought him back a little over a month later against fellow 3-year-old Balto Star and several hard-knocking older stakes horses in the 1 3/16-mile Queens County Handicap (gr. III). While he wasn't a megabomb price this time, the son of Black Tie Affair still was sent off at 10-1, with only two others in the eight-horse field going off at longer odds. It looked as if it was going to take a monster effort to run down the speedy and classy Balto Star, but here came that same splotchy gray coat and matching set of blue blinkers flying down the stretch on the way to another upset victory. Evening Attire not only knocked off Balto Star, he drew off to win by 1 3/4 lengths. So, from where did this new star emerge? How does a horse coming off five straight defeats in allowance company suddenly win back-to-back stakes against top-class horses? Evening Attire was always held in high regard by his first trainer, Pat's brother Tim, who retired at the end of last year to take a job with the New York Racing Association, working in the racing office. Evening Attire is owned by Pat and Tim's father, Tommy, a successful trainer himself in New York for many years, along with Tommy's longtime clients Joseph and Mary Grant. When Tim retired, it didn't take much discussion to find a new trainer. The Evening Attire who was turned over to Pat this past spring was not quite the same horse that Tim had trained. He arrived carrying much less baggage than the year before. Gone were the knee chips that were discovered last fall following two second-place finishes in allowance races, and gone were the testicles that had given him trouble the year before. "One of the testicles was immature and stuck in the canal," Pat Kelly said. "It had been bugging him, so they wound up gelding him. The poor guy had to have two surgeries over the winter." Evening Attire didn't make his first start this year until Aug. 11, in a six-furlong allowance race at Saratoga. He ran up against D. Wayne Lukas' talented Orientate and showed enough, rallying for third, to get Kelly's hopes up. After he finished fourth in a Belmont allowance race, Kelly decided to put blinkers on to get his mind focused on racing. He then entered him in a 1 1/8-mile allowance race on grass in the hopes it would rain and force the race onto the main track. But that didn't happen, and Evening Attire could do no better than finish sixth, beaten only three lengths.
"He got bottled up on the inside and was in trouble the whole way," Kelly said. "I ran him in the Discovery, figuring if he could get third I'd be ecstatic." He got a lot more than third, as Evening Attire came though on the inside to run down Street Cry in one of the biggest upsets of the year in New York. "He trained really well after that race and acted like he had kept his edge," Kelly said. So it was on to the Queens County. Balto Star, who was expected to be the one to catch, surprisingly was rated in second behind Top Official through soft fractions of :24.89 and :48.82. Shaun Bridgmohan had Evening Attire tucked in third while saving ground. Balto Star then went after Top Official, but had trouble putting him away. By the time he had wrested control nearing the eighth pole, Evening Attire was breathing down his neck. In the final furlong, Balto Star was no match for Evening Attire, who drew clear to win in a solid 1:55.08, paying $23. Top Official hung on for third, 2 1/4 lengths farther back. With both Evening Attire and Balto Star remaining in New York for the winter, we'll no doubt be seeing these two bang heads several more times. (Chart, Equibase)