Evening Attire won the Discovery Handicap at 65-1 odds.

Evening Attire won the Discovery Handicap at 65-1 odds.

AP/ NYRA/ Adam Coglianese

Aqueduct Race Report: Longshot Central

Published in the Nov. 10 issue of The Blood-Horse
If you were looking for some sense of normalcy in New York following the wild and woolly Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships, you were in for a rude awakening. With the switchover to Aqueduct on Oct. 31, the first two graded stakes--the Discovery Handicap (gr. III) on opening day and the Turnback the Alarm Handicap (gr. III) on Nov. 3--were won not only by longshots, but the longest price in the race. And in both races, the victories came at the expense of an odds-on favorite.

In the Discovery, 65-1 Evening Attire slipped through on the inside to defeat 4-5 favorite Street Cry by a length, paying $133. In the Turnback the Alarm, 26-1 Rochelle's Terms rallied on the outside to defeat Resort by a half-length, with 3-5 favorite Strolling Belle finishing third after bobbling at the start.

How strange has it been at Aqueduct? The second, third, and fourth races on the Nov. 3 card were won by trainers Mark Hubley (one-for-17 in 2001), Finger Lakes trainer Jonathan Buckley, and Russell Mueller (four-for-49 in 2001)--not exactly household names in the Big Apple.

The Discovery Handicap, for 3-year-olds, had a great deal of interest, with the return of Street Cry, Godolphin's main Kentucky Derby (gr. I) hope before he was injured shortly after arriving at Churchill Downs. Also in the 11/8-mile race were Jim Dandy (gr. I) runner-up Free of Love and Ogden Phipps' Pure Prize, who finally looked ready to make a name for himself.

Street Cry looked to have the Discovery under control after turning for home, and Evening Attire, owned by Joseph and Mary Grant and Thomas J. Kelly, and trained by Pat Kelly, came barreling through a wide-open rail to edge clear in the final 100 yards. The son of Black Tie Affair had scored only a nose victory in a maiden special-weight event on Aug. 6, 2000, in eight career starts. But from a longshot handicapper's standpoint, he did fit two sharp angles--second-race blinkers on and turf to dirt. He also was dropping six pounds off his sixth-place finish in a grass allowance race at Belmont on Oct. 13. He completed the nine furlongs in a solid 1:48.62.

"Timmy (Kelly, Pat's brother, who now works in the New York Racing Association racing office) had this horse last year and he had some problems over the winter," Pat Kelly said. "We gave him some time. He actually ran against a lot of these horses last year. He had a little knee trouble, which we worked on over the winter with surgery. We ran him on the turf last time, thinking the race would be run on the dirt because of a rainy forecast. When it wasn't, we figured we'd try the turf anyway and he had a real rough trip. I thought he'd like two turns at Aqueduct because he's a long-striding horse."

The Turnback the Alarm looked to be an excellent spot for Strolling Belle to notch her first graded stakes victory since the Ladies Handicap (gr. III) last December. The daughter of Strolling Along was back in form, having won the Personal Ensign Stakes at Monmouth before finishing second by a neck in the Long Look Stakes at Meadowlands. Her main threat looked to be Resort, who had shown so much promise last year, winning back-to-back allowance races, then finishing second in the Coaching Club American Oaks (gr. I). But the daughter of Pleasant Colony went off form, and was winless in five starts in 2001.

No one paid much attention to Four Media Farm's Rochelle's Terms, who had won four of her 20 career starts, but had managed only two allowance victories in her last nine starts. But the daughter of Private Terms, trained by Howie Tesher, made a huge turnaround in the Turnback the Alarm, circling her field under Robbie Davis and wearing down Resort to win the nine-furlong race in 1:51.19. It was another two lengths back to Strolling Belle, who bobbled one step out of the gate.

"She's been rushed in her last two races, and she doesn't like that," Tesher said of the winner. "I always thought she would win a stakes, and she seems to like Aqueduct. There has just always been some minor injury for her to overcome. She likes the cold weather, and I'll leave her in training up here for the winter."

(Chart, Equibase)