West Virginia’s Evening Attire

Confucius Say just may be the Evening Attire of West Virginia.

He’s not grey, but he’s ten years old, and he’s a gelding, and tonight, he goes for the 19th win in his 39-start career.

He made his first start on the 28th of September, 2000 in a four and a half furlong race at Charles Town; he was second, and it took him two more tries to break his maiden; stretching out to seven furlongs in a Charles Town maiden special weight, he won on October 26th by thirteen. As a two-year-old, Confucius Say raced five times and won twice, under the guidance of trainer Eugene Smith, according to his Brisnet past performances.

Returning to the track at three under the care of trainer George Yetsook, he raced regularly, making ten starts that year and venturing to Laurel, Mountaineer, Colonial Downs, and Delaware, finishing third in the Virginia Derby. He compiled a record of 5 – 1 – 3; all of his wins came at Charles Town, three of them in stakes races, and the last in the West Virginia Breeders’ Classic, against older horses. He won by four, “…in hand, much the best.”

As a four-year-old, Confucius Say returned to his winning ways, winning his first two starts of 2001, the first by seven lengths, the second “impressively.” He raced eight times at four, winning five times and never finishing off the board. He ended 2002 as he ended 2001, with a win in the West Virginia Breeders’ Classic, this time by 11 ¾ lengths.

And then he was gone.

The track was muddy on the night he won the West Virginia Breeders’ Classic for the second time, and he came up lame, with injuries to a rear ankle and a front tendon. He was brought to New Bolton, and his connections were told that Confucius Say’s race days were over.

His connections, Yetsook and his owners, O’Sullivan Farms (where Evening Attire’s sire, Black Tie Affair, stands), took him to Dr. William Riddle at the Cecil Veterinary Clinic. After an absence of more than three years and cautious handling, Confucius Say returned to the track on May 6, 2006…and of course, he won. But for the first time in his career, Confucius Say found himself outside the winner’s circle more frequently than he found himself in it. In eight starts that year, he won only twice, in his comeback race and in October. He didn’t have the earnings that year to gain a berth in the Breeders’ Classic, so he instead ran in the West Virginia Onion Juice Breeders’ Classic (the West Virginia-bred Onion Juice won multiple WV stakes races, and died in 1999), winning by nine.

In 2007, Confucius Say hit the board in four of six starts, including a second in the West Virginia Breeders’ Classic; in his Fourth of July victory (by twelve lengths) at Charles Town, the horse earned a 114 Beyer. On the same weekend, Any Given Saturday earned a 110 in the Dwyer. Confucius Say’s BSF was the highest in the country that weekend.

Even though he’s raced only twice this year, Confucius Say won both starts, stakes races at Charles Town. And tonight, he tries to make it three out of four in West Virginia’s premier race. In a field of ten, he’s the 9-5 favorite.

Yetsook tells me that before every race, Confucius Say heads north to Dr. Riddle for a complete physical, including ultrasounds and some time in a hyperbaric chamber. Since his injury, the horse has been handled gingerly, with impressive results. According to his trainer, attendance jumps at Charles Town when Confucius Say is entered, and I imagine that he gets the same sort of fan attention that Evening Attire has excited over the last few years.

Now that our New York aged veteran has retired, racing fans looking for another warrior to follow might well check out tonight’s races from Charles Town. You’ll be joining at least one lifetime Confucius Say fan: “He’s a part of my heart,” says Yetsook. “He’s a character.”

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