The Roger Attfield-trained Are You Kidding Me, ridden by Alan Garcia, charged through the stretch to overtake pacesetting Midnight Aria and win the featured $201,200 Grade 2 Eclipse Stakes, Sunday at Woodbine.
Sitting a patient third in a tightly-compacted five-horse field for most of the mile and one-sixteenth Polytrack contest, Are You Kidding Me was wheeled to the outside turning for home, first overtaking favoured Za Approval in mid-stretch, then collaring Midnight Aria to win by one and half-lengths under a hand ride. The final time was 1:42.76.
Last year, Are You Kidding Me made his season debut in the Eclipse and raced well, finishing fourth behind winner Frac Daddy.
This year, the five-year-old son of Run Away and Hide-Sweet Awakening, got a tightener at Golden Gate Fields in the turf Grade 3 San Francisco Mile on April 25 before returning to his home base at Woodbine. And it paid off with a powerful stretch run on Sunday.
“He was very comfortable”, said Garcia, Woodbine’s leading rider who was celebrating his fifth stakes win so far this year since relocating from the States. “He broke good. He was relaxed. When it was time to go, I said, ‘Are you kidding me?’ (as the horse kicked into gear).”
“He’s had a few problems with his wind and what have you,” said Hall of Fame trainer Attfield. “But we’ve got him in good shape right now. I said to Alan today, ‘If I’m where I think I am with this horse, he will win’. He’s a lovely horse, he really is.
“We thought to run him in California this winter would be better than taking him to Florida. (Another Hall of Famer) Neil Drysdale looked after him there and did a great job with the horse. If everything stays right (with him), he’ll be a major contender here among the older horses.”
In a field reduced to five with the morning scratch of Florida Won, Midnight Aria, the 2013 Queen’s Plate winner, took the field through some leisurely early fractions of :24.59, :49.05 and 1:12.89.
Turning for home, 8-5 Za Approval first took a run at the leader but Are You Kidding Me was sailing down the middle of the track and hauled down the pacesetter inside the sixteenth pole.
It was the fourth career win (second on Poly) in 19 starts for Are You Kidding Me, who has now earned more than $460,000, including the $120,000 awarded today.
Two years ago, he won the Grade 3, turf Kent Stakes at Delaware Park.
Sent postward the 7-2 third choice, Are You Kidding Me returned $9.50, $4.70 and $2.90, combining with Midnight Aria ($4.40, $3.30) for a $49.70 (2-3) exactor. A 2-3-5 (Za Approval, $2.60) triactor was worth $144.