“Not many horses go out a winner, and certainly not many horses his age go out a winner,” said trainer Pat Kelly. “I don’t know if we’ll ever see another like him. They sure don’t make them like him anymore.”
In between the seven live races and the simulcast of the Breeders’ Cup from Santa Anita Park, clips of Evening’s Attire’s greatest races will be shown on track throughout the day.
The son of Black Tie Affair, who was retired after suffering a suspensory injury while in training for his next start, went out a winner, taking the Greenwood Cup at Philadelphia Park in July while covering the 1 ½ miles in a track record 2:29.90.
The Greenwood Cup marked the 15th victory of his lengthy career, most of which took place in New York. While his career was punctuated with victories that include a stunning upset of War Cry at 65-1 in the Grade 3 Discovery Handicap in 2001 and a Grade 1 win in the 2002 Jockey Club Gold Cup, it was Evening Attire’s ability to compete successfully at the stakes level for so many years that made him a standout.
“He always showed up,” said Kelly. “He was classy from the start.”
The gray gelding launched his career at the beginning of the new millennium, when he finished second in a maiden race at Belmont on July 16, 2000. Trained at the time by Pat’s brother, Tim, Evening Attire -- bred and owned by the Kelly’s father, Hall of Fame trainer T.J. Kelly, and Joe and Mary Grant – would go on to finish first, second or third 40 times over the next nine years.
Indeed, in 69 starts, Evening Attire failed to bring home a paycheck only three times -- in the 2003 Breeders’ Cup Classic, an allowance race at Belmont on October 13, 2001, and the 2000 Hopeful Stakes, the third race of his life. His connections always thought he would be a special horse – after all, he was foaled on Valentine’s Day, 1998 – but never expected that he would be putting smiles on his fans’ faces a decade later.
While Pat Kelly ranks Evening Attire’s Jockey Club Gold Cup and his upset of War Cry as his favorite races, the gelding’s fans were just as delighted with his improbable victory in the Grade 3 Queens County Handicap at Aqueduct last December. Under Edgar Prado, the 9-year-old simply wore down Baracola in the stretch as he became the oldest horse to take the race since its inception in 1902.
“The old guy just knows his way around the racetrack,” said Prado, who was just as delighted with Evening Attire’s victory.
At the age of 10, Evening Attire would make six more starts, including a trio of seconds in the Aqueduct Handicap, the Fit to Fight Stakes and the Grade 2 Brooklyn Handicap to Delosvientos on June 6 in what would be his last start in New York.
When ready, Evening Attire will depart Belmont Park for Pawling, New York, and Akindale Farm, where the late John Hettinger, who received a special Eclipse Award in 2000 for his efforts involving racehorse retirement, established a community for former racehorses.
“We are all going to miss him,” said Pat Kelly. “The barn is going to be very different without him. I know he didn’t like retirement before, but this time around, maybe it will be different. And who knows? If he doesn’t like it, maybe next year, if his legs are tight, perhaps he can become a stable pony, like Funny Cide. But for now, he’s earned his rest.”