Are You Kidding Me, Canada’s champion older horse of 2015 and 2016, will be making his fourth appearance in the Grade 2 Eclipse Stakes on Saturday, at Woodbine.
Trained by multiple Hall of Fame conditioner Roger Attfield, Are You Kidding Me finished fourth in the 2014 running of the Eclipse, a 1 1/16-mile main track event but has since won back-to-back runnings en route to champion older horse honours in Canada.
A three-peat in the Eclipse would be no laughing matter, picture WEG and Michael Burns Photography
Last year, Are You Kidding Me drew off to a two-length score in the Eclipse keeping the well-regarded Breaking Lucky in his rear view. In 2015, Are You Kidding Me notched a 1 ½-length score over Midnight Aria, the 2013 Queen’s Plate champ.
Alan Garcia was aboard for both wins.
“If he wins the Eclipse this year it will be three years in a row he's taken this race so I'm under a lot of pressure to get the job done," laughed Garcia.
Are You Kidding Me posted a record of three wins and two seconds from eight starts in 2016 including scores in the Grade 2 Autumn Stakes and Grade 3 Durham Cup.
The now seven-year-old Run Away and Hide bay wintered at Payson Park in Florida and after a brief stop at Keeneland made his seasonal debut at Woodbine on April 29 with a convincing 1 ¼-length score in the Eclipse allowance prep.
“The horse came back from Florida in good form and I think Roger was waiting for the right race. We were glad to get him back and to win,” said Garcia.
Garcia noted great work by the Attfield team each morning, in particular assistant trainer Allyson Walker, as a key part of Are You Kidding Me’s success.
“Ally does a great job with him. She does all the work in the morning galloping the horse and told me he was doing amazing,” said Garcia. “I'm very confident when she tells me about the horse and she does a good job educating me on all of Roger's good horses.”
Are You Kidding Me will leave from Post Two on Saturday and boasts a May 16 bullet breeze covering five furlongs in 1:00.40.
“The horse is doing well and is coming into the race professional. It's only about the trip,” said Garcia. “We're in the two-hole so I'm going to save all the ground I can and time the move so if he's the best horse he can win.”
To win the Eclipse, Are You Kidding Me will have to fend off a salty group of eight rivals that includes graded stakes winner Riker and the improving Unbridled Juan.
Riker, trained by Nick Gonzalez and to be piloted by Jesse Campbell, earned a career-best 92 Beyer Speed Figure last time out when 2 ¼-lengths the better of Eclipse rival Oakton. The four-year-old Include colt captured the Grade 3 Grey Stakes over 1 1/16-miles as a juvenile.
Unbridled Juan, trained by Josie Carroll for Stronach Stables, posted a perfect in-the-money record last season of 3-3-3 from nine starts. Although he has yet to land a stakes win, the five-year-old son of Unbridled’s Song has twice posted triple digit Beyer figures. Luis Contreras will ride.
Royal Son, Eirigh, Go Around, Dragon Bay and Noble Thought complete the field.
A win on Saturday would be the first step on Are You Kidding Me’s path to a third consecutive title as Canada’s champion older horse - - a title his rider thinks is an attainable goal.
“He loves the Tapeta and has the ability. He's going to show if he's the best horse or not on Saturday. I hope that he is,” said Garcia.
The Grade 2 Eclipse Stakes is slated as Race 7 on Saturday’s 10-race card. First post time is 1PM. Fans can watch and wager on all the action via HPIbet.com.
FIELD FOR THE GRADE 2 $175,000 ECLIPSE STAKES
POST / HORSE / JOCKEY / TRAINER
1 / Oakton / David Moran / Pat Parente
2 / Are You Kidding Me / Alan Garcia / Roger Attfield
3 / Royal Son / Patrick Husbands / Mark Casse
4 / Eirigh / Emma-Jayne Wilson / Todd Pletcher
5 / Unbridled Juan / Luis Contreras / Josie Carroll
6 / Go Around / Rafael Hernandez / Bill Mott
7 / Riker / Jesse Campbell / Nick Gonzalez
8 / Dragon Bay / Gary Boulanger / Stu Simon
9 / Noble Thought / Eurico Rosa Da Silva / Malcolm Pierce