OZONE PARK, N.Y. -- Trainer Pat Kelly believes that his 7-year-old gelding has been miscast as a one-run closer.
"Everybody thinks he has to be back," Kelly said. "When he's into it, he's up there. Almost all his winning races are pretty much the same."
Evening Attire was certainly into it last month, when he outfinished West Virginia to win the Grade 3 Stuyvesant Handicap over Aqueduct's main track. Those two hook up again Saturday in the 100th renewal of the Queens County Handicap. A field of six was entered for the Grade 3, $100,000 Queens County, scheduled for 1 3/16 miles over Aqueduct's inner track.
With racing canceled Friday because of an expected winter storm, Saturday's card features a pick six carryover of $30,932 after the wager went unhit Thursday.
When he won the Stuyvesant, Evening Attire ended a 15-month losing streak. Now he will try to win back-to-back races for the first time since 2002, when he took the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup after winning the Grade 2 Saratoga Breeders' Cup. This will mark Evening Attire's fourth appearance in this race. He won the Queens County in 2001 and finished second in both 2003 and 2004.
If Evening Attire has an advantage over West Virginia it is his proven ability at the distance. West Virginia has yet to run beyond 1 1/8 miles, but Todd Pletcher, the trainer of West Virginia, said he doesn't believe the additional sixteenth of a mile will be a detriment. The key to West Virginia, Pletcher said, is timing his late run. Pletcher feels West Virginia might have made the lead too soon in the Stuyvesant, overtaking Aggadan in upper stretch before being outfinished.
"He's the kind of horse that sometimes gets lazy on the lead," Pletcher said. "Maybe we should have arrived later than we did, but it was a pretty good race. He just got run down."
Norberto Arroyo Jr. rode West Virginia for the first time in the Stuyvesant and gets the call again Saturday.
The pace in the Queens County could be more honest than it was in the Stuyvesant. Trapped Again set a Delaware Park track record winning the 1 3/16-mile Kelso Handicap on the front end three starts back. Mike Luzzi, off to a hot start at the inner track meet, has the call on Trapped Again, who breaks from post 4.
Philanthropist, a winner of two straight allowance races, could also be part of the early pace. He has two wins and two seconds since getting blinkers. Eibar Coa rides.