John Pricci

HorseRaceInsider.com executive editor John Pricci has over three decades of experience as a thoroughbred racing public handicapper and was an award-winning journalist while at New York Newsday for 18 years.

John has covered 14 Kentucky Derbies and Preaknesses, all but three Breeders' Cups since its inception in 1984, and has seen all but two Belmont Stakes live since 1969.

Currently John is a contributing racing writer to MSNBC.com, an analyst on the Capital Off-Track Betting television network, and co-hosts numerous handicapping seminars. He resides in Saratoga Springs, New York.

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Saturday, January 17, 2009


Evening Attire: Working Class Hero


Saratoga Springs, NY, January 16, 2009--His biggest win might have come in the Jockey Club Gold Cup of 2002, and his last victory in the mile and a half Greenwood Cup at Philadelphia Park in record time, but if Evening Attire ever had to report to work daily like many of us do, he would surely arrive carrying a lunch bucket.

No modern fancy-pants of a race horse would ever think about getting the job done at age 10; he would have been retired and munching on alfalfa a long time ago. But not Evening Attire.

Actually, the old man tried retiring once before, but his A-type personality wouldn’t allow it. In fact, if he didn’t get back to work he probably would have hurt himself trying to stay active. Ultimately, a suspensory injury would force him to the sidelines late last year.

The only thing fancy about Evening Attire--a name that would belie his work ethic--was his favorite track, Saratoga. From the rear window of his stall, the son of Black Tie Affair would watch the races, the crowd noise stirring up all his pent up adrenaline.

But when he did get to run he never failed to fire his best shot.

In all, the gray gelding went to the post 69 times--unheard of in this era of the hot-house speed oriented thoroughbred--ad earned a top-three finish in 40 of those races.

He won a race at all three New York tracks, a total of 15 wins in all, nine of them stakes, including the Queens County Handicap and Saratoga Breeders’ Cup Handicap, twice.

Evening Attire earned his $2.9 million the old fashioned way; finishing on the board in a dozen more added-money events.

This is only fitting for a horse that lived and thrived in a racetrack working family environment.

Evening Attire was bred by Hall of Fame trainer Tommy Kelly, who bought his mother, Concolour, at auction, and was trained by Kelly’s two sons, first Tim, then Pat, whose wife, Karen, exercised him occasionally.

The gelding is co-owned by Kelly’s by longtime partners and friends, Joe and Mary Grant of Boston, who, although not related by blood, probably should be.

Evening Attire was the equine pet the two families shared that happened to be a damned good race horse.

The year the dappled gray won the Jockey Club Gold Cup, the families agreed, and trainer Pat Kelly concurred, that Evening Attire had earned a trip to Arlington Park in Chicago for the Breeders’ Cup.

Following the JCGC, Mary Grant was approached by a bloodstock agent working for a sheikh and offered her more money than she probably had ever seen to sell the horse. “Evening Attire is not for sale at any price,” Grant told the agent.

Last October 25th, Evening Attire was brought to Belmont Park one last time. The visit included a final circumference of the paddock ring and culminated in a warm winner’s circle celebration before family members and a good number of the normally hardscrabble New York fans.

It is fitting that Evening Attire has retired to a life of leisure at Akindale Farm in upstate Pawling, New York, owned by the late horse owner and philanthropist John Hettinger.

Dedicating his life‘s mission to the abolition of horse slaughter, Hettinger dedicated his farm to the rescue, rehabilitation and retraining of retired thoroughbred racehorses.

Also fitting is that the NYRA would honor this local equine legend by renaming the Aqueduct Handicap the Evening Attire, in memory of this rare animal’s class and heart.

And what better place to do so than at Aqueduct, a workingman’s racetrack hard by Jamaica Bay in Queens, New York.

In the absence of a firm opinion in the Aqueduct feature race this afternoon, players might consider a $2 hunch play on Judiths Wild Rush.

Like Evening Attire, Judith’s Wild Rush seems to give his all every time out, he’ll be a fair price, and it would be appropriate if the 90th renewal of this newly renamed handicap were won by an eight-year-old gray horse, a grandson of Black Tie Affair.

Written by John Pricci

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