TORONTO, ON – For the third time in five years, the 8-year-old battle ax Are You Kidding Me was victorious in the Grade 2, $175,000 Eclipse Stakes at Woodbine on Saturday.
Breaking well from post 4 as the 9-5 favorite under Rafael Hernandez, Are You Kidding Me settled just off of early leader Gigantic Breeze through tepid splits of :24.83 and :49.24. Ranging up between Gigantic Breeze and Hollywood Critic heading into the far turn, Are You Kidding me stayed even with Gigantic Breeze to his inside through to the top of the stretch. A rail-running Melmich tipped out when straightened for home and made it a three-horse run for the wire. In the final furlong, Are You Kidding Me was able to break away from Gigantic Breeze, then gamely fended off a stubborn Melmich to win by 3/4 of a length in a final time of 1:43.14 for the 1 1/16-mile event over the synthetic main track.
“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.”
Gigantic Breeze held well to cross only 3/4 of a length farther back in third, 6 1/4 lengths ahead of Tizzarunner and Tiz a Slam (with only a head separating the former from the latter). Sir Duddley Digges and Hollywood Critic completed the order of finish.
Are You Kidding Me’s win was his second straight in 2018 and his third Eclipse Stakes score in five years, having finished fourth in 2014 before winning in 2015 and 2016, then missing by only a neck last year. The classy Roger Attfield trainee improved his career record to 38-12-7-7 with career earnings of $1,191,536. Are You Kidding Me was bred and is owned by the same trio (Ronald Kirk, John Bates, and Michael Riordan) who campaigned his sire, Run Away and Hide.
“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.”
Are You Kidding Me returned $5.60 to win, $2.80 to place, and $2.20 to show. Melmich brought back $3.50 to place and $2.40 to show, while Gigantic Breeze paid $3.10 to show.