Are You Kidding Me earned his third Eclipse Stakes title winning the 2018 edition of the $175,000 Grade 2 stakes event for older horses on Saturday afternoon at Woodbine Racetrack.
Jockey Rafael Hernandez worked out the winning trip aboard the Roger Attfield trainee, who reclaimed his Eclipse title after missing by just a neck to Dragon Bay last year. Are You Kidding Me previously won back-to-back editions of the Eclipse Stakes during his reign as Canada’s Champion Older Horse in 2015 and 2016.
Sent postward as the 9-5 favourite off a winning season’s debut on May 5 at Woodbine, the classy eight-year-old Are You Kidding Me fought past pacesetter Gigantic Breeze in the stretch and held off the late-rallying Melmich to win the 1-1/16 miles stakes in 1:43.14.
Gigantic Breeze led the talented field through panels of :24.83, :49.24 and 1:12.73 with Hollywood Critic pressing the pace. However, Are You Kidding Me split between those rivals down the backstretch to battle head-to-head with Gigantic Breeze in the final turn and wore him down in a stretch duel. Melmich followed Are You Kidding Me and launched his bid down the lane to finish second, less than a length behind.
“We got a good trip, the first time we saved ground,” said Hernandez after the race. “All down the backside my main thing was just to get my horse clear. I was loaded so I just didn’t want to keep holding him inside. I had to make a move early to make sure he got a clear trip. In the race, he just did it himself, he switched to the lead and he just stretched his legs turning for home and he ran unbelievable.”
Are You Kidding Me returned to action this month from an extended layoff and is now two-for-two to start the year.
“He trained so well in the winter,” said Attfield. “I gave him a lot of time for this quarter crack – a lot more than he actually needed – but the whole idea was really to have him for the summer here. He trained so very well, I would have been surprised if he got beat in the prep and then he trained off of that race well. Of course, this is the first time also he hasn’t had to carry a lot of weight in this race so he was delighted to win it himself.”
The homebred millionaire son of Run Away and Hide now boasts a career record reading 12-7-7 from 38 starts for owners Michael Riordan, Ron Kirk and John Bates.
Are You Kidding Me paid $5.60, $2.80 and $2.20. He combined with Melmich ($3.50, $2.40) for a 4-1 exacta worth $13.20. A $1 trifecta of 4-1-2 (Gigantic Breeze, $3.10) paid $16 and a $1 superfecta of 4-1-2-3 (Tizzarunner) returned $122.30. Tiz a Slam, also trained by Attfield, finished fifth while Sir Dudley Digges and Hollywood Critic completed the order of finish.
Live racing continues at Woodbine on Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m., with a 10-race program featuring the first turf stakes of the meet, the $175,000 Nassau Stakes (Grade 2).