Evening Attire returned to his favorite strip at Aqueduct to put an end to his nine race losing streak, grinding out a neck victory over West Virginia in the $108,600 Stuyvesant Handicap (gr. III) Saturday.
Coaxed to victory by Jose Santos, the 7-year-old Black Tie Affair
gelding overtook West Virginia and the pacesetting Aggadan in the final stages of the 1 1/8-mile test for just his second win in his last 18 starts. His only victory in that period came almost 15 months ago in the Saratoga Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II).
"I knew I was going to win at the quarter pole," said Santos. "He just took off. I think he did enough just to get by."
West Virginia, ridden by Norberto Arroyo Jr., edged 2-1 favorite Aggadan and Cornelio Velasquez by three-quarters of a length for second. The final time was 1:51 1/5 on a fast track.
Evening Attire, carrying 116 pounds, was in perfect striking position from the outset. He saved ground while closely stalking the leaders Aggadan and West Virginia through pedestrian early fractions of :25, :49 4/5 and 1:14. Coming off the far turn, Santos angled the gray/roan to the outside of the front-runners and he gradually wore them down to get up in the final strides.
The classy multiple graded stakes winner of $2,483,352 won for the fifth time in seven career starts at Aqueduct for owners Joseph and Mary Grant and retired Hall of Fame trainer Thomas "T.J." Kelly.
Kelly's son, Pat Kelly, trains Evening Attire, who now sports a record of 12-12-4 in 45 lifetime races.
"When he is up there, stalking horses, he is happy," said Kelly. "I was glad to see him up there. He is not done yet. He is hanging in there. He is a tough son of a gun and he is a nice horse. He has been great to us and we just love him to death."
The third choice in a field of five betting interests (Evening Attire was coupled with Dr. Rockett), the winner paid $9, $4.20, $2.60. West Virginia returned $5.30 and $2.80, and Aggadan's show was $2.20.
Kennel Up, also sent off at 2-1, was left at the gate and raced under wraps into the stretch when he rallied for fourth. Spite the Devil and Dr. Rockett trailed.