Saturday's Evening Attire Stakes sends five horses onto the winterized inner track at Aqueduct for a purse of $65,000. The five starters will run 1 1/8 miles in a race named after the old warrior, Evening Attire. The race was renamed the Evening Attire from the Aqueduct Handicap in 2009, upon the retirement of the gray gelding.
Evening Attire (above) was a fixture on the NYRA circuit and son of 1991 Horse of the Year Black Tie Affair. His biggest win was the 2002 Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) and he won seven stakes over a career in which he earned more than $2.9 million. He won a graded stakes race at each of the three NYRA circuit tracks (Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga).
Evening Attire holds the track record at 1 1/2 miles at Philadelphia Park, when as a 10-year-old he bested his foes by 8“ lengths, while breaking a 16-year-old record. He was the epitome of a closer, often behind the pace, and charging late.
The race has been won by some great horses including former Kentucky Derby winner Cannonade, in addition to Evening Attire, Kelso and Damascus. Let's take a look at this year's challengers and try to figure out who's going to grab the winning laurels (trainer, jockey, morning line odds):
1 -- More Than a Reason (Persaud, Castro, 10-1): Winner of the Grade III Queens County two back at 19-1, the More Than Ready 6-year-old won't sneak up on anyone in this race. He ran 19 times in 2010 and he's right back at it in 2011. A closer who can handle the distance, he could be running late to grab a piece.
2 -- Heart Butte (Pletcher, Cohen, 5-2): This 4-year-old son of Empire Maker is perfect in two races at the distance and steps up in class for his first listed stake race. He's lightly raced compared to his elder competition with only eight career starts. I think his morning line odds are generous and won't bet him at that price facing tougher competition for the first time. Will wait and see on this one even with the seven pound weight break.
3 -- Alma D'Oro (Pletcher, Jara, 3-1): The Medaglia D'Oro 5-year-old ran a super race in his last, winning a non-graded stake by four lengths and pulling away going a mile. The pedigree says the distance is just right and he's won 3 of 7 at the 1 1/8 distance. Jockey Fernando Jara is having a disappointing meet, but Pletcher wins these races at such solid percentages he's tough to ignore. Second off the layoff, we'll be pushing the win button on this one.
4 -- Goombada Guska (Volk, Valdivia, 5-1): With a dam with the name Goombada Byda Sea, how can you not like this horse? He ran most of his races this summer by the sea, at Monmouth Park, and picks up a new rider for the Evening Attire in Jose Valdivia. He ran a decent race in his debut on the inner track in the $60K Cosmic Bob Stakes in December in a four-horse field. Interesting.
5 -- Arson Squad (Dutrow, Dominguez, 8-5): The 8-year old veteran raced eight times in 2010 at six tracks. A road warrior makes his second career start at the Big A after being upset as the favorite in the Queen's County by the rail horse, More Than a Reason. The morning line favorite is the class of the field based on experience, and will enjoy the red-hot Eclipse finalist Ramon Dominguez in the irons. His workouts say he's fit and is hard to dismiss with Dominguez aboard.
Post Time Selections:
1 - Alma D'Oro
2 - Arson Squad
3 - Goombada Guska
Gene Kershner is a Buffalo-based turf writer, handicapper and member of the Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance who blogs at equispace.blogspot.com and tweets @EquiSpace.