TORONTO, ON – Dragon Bay, under Gary Boulanger, denied Sovereign Award champion Are You Kidding Me a third straight Eclipse Stakes crown, eking out a neck triumph in Saturday’s Grade 2, $180,250 feature at Woodbine.
Trained by Stuart Simon, who also co-owns with Brett and Russell McLellan, the Parading gelding held on gamely against a hard-charging Are You Kidding Me, Canada’s champion older male in 2015 and 2016.
Dragon Bay came into the Eclipse, a 1 1/16-mile Tapeta route, off of three consecutive starts south of the border, including his most recent effort, a fifth-place performance at Keeneland in a 1 1/16-mile turf race on April 19. Last October, the chestnut took the English Channel Stakes at Belmont.
Jesse Campbell put Riker on the lead from the outset, with Dragon Bay and Boulanger keeping close tabs to their outside through opening fractions of :24.84 and :49.34. Alan Garcia, aboard Are You Kidding Me, was desperately looking for racing room as the field straightened for home, while Dragon Bay sought to draw away from his foes.
Are You Kidding Me launched a furious outside bid while Dragon Bay dug in along the rail, fending off his rival for the narrow victory in 1:43.79. Unbridled Juan was third, followed by Elrigh, Riker, Noble Thought, Go Around, and Oakton.
Simon was elated to see his 4-year-old pupil display total heart in the Eclipse.
“Last year, it was a process,” he said. “When we got the blinkers off him and the earplugs in him, he seemed to settle and run straight. He’s always been wildly talented, and once we got him straightened out, he’s taken care of the rest.”
Boulanger was pleased with how the winning trip panned out.
“I didn’t think there was much speed in the race other than Riker,” said the veteran rider. “Stu said you could do what you want with him. When he broke that good, I just said I’m just going to track Jesse (Campbell) as long as I have to. At the 1/2-mile pole, I really liked the position I was in. He ran really hard down the lane. The gallop out was there, too. He’s a pretty nice horse.”
Last year, Dragon Bay went 2-2-1 in nine starts. Bred by Shawhan Place LLC in Kentucky, he banked $105,000 in victory while improving his record to 4-2-3 from 16 starts.
Dragon Bay returned $38, $11, and $5.10. Are You Kidding Me brought back $2.80 and $2.10, while Unbridled Juan paid $2.90 to show.