By Francis LaBelle Jr.

The New York Racing Association’s decision to re-name the Aqueduct Handicap the Evening Attire Stakes after the gray hero who retired last year at the age of 10 proved to be the right one on Saturday afternoon.

Not only did another gray, Darley Stable’s favored Barrier Reef, come through as the winner in 90th renewal of this $69,095 mile and a sixteenth race, but he showed the same kind of toughness that made Evening Attire a fan favorite for years.

Ridden by Aqueduct’s leading jockey Ramon Dominguez, Barrier Reef saved ground while last in the field of five. Barcola and Brilliant Son had pushed the early fractions on the fast inner dirt track, and after a quick half-mile of 46.64, Barrier Reef tracked Broadway Producer to the lead as they entered the far turn.

Broadway Producer and jockey Eddie Castro struck the lead entering the stretch, but Barrier Reef continued to rally on the outside. Neither horse gave up, and even Brilliant Son mustered enough for another run at the leaders.

Barrier Reef, however, proved to be too strong and came home a neck winner in 1:43.81. He returned $5 for each $2 win ticket among the 3,048 in attendance.

“I thought he would go by a little easier, but the other horse (Broadway Producer) was really digging in.,” said Andy Rehm, assistant to winning trainer Tom Albertrani. “He’s had a tendency to make a big move and then stick there, but Ramon (Dominguez) said that wasn’t it, the other horse came back. You worry about 15 days off a lifetime top, but there was no reason not to run him. We let him dictate. It was a good horse race.”

Rehm said the next logical spot for Barrier Reef, now 4-for-5 on the inner track, will be the $65,000-added Stymie at nine furlongs on February 28.

Barrier Reef, a 4-year-old Misan Mast colt, has now won four of 10 career starts and his race in the Evening Attire should serve him well later.

“My main goal was to do the same as last time, to get him [Barrier Reef] to relax,” Dominguez said. “He was pretty fresh today and it took longer than I wanted to get him back, but once he relaxed it was push button. The 4-horse [Broadway Producer] was really digging in and I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy task at that point, but my horse kept on running.”

Judiths Wild Rush was fourth and Barcola was last.

There will be a Pick 6 carryover of $37,714 when racing resumes on Sunday with a first race post of 12:30 p.m.