Are You Kidding Me takes Nijinsky, but note a couple of others too
Are You Kidding Me, victorious in the June 7 Eclipse (G2) last time out on Woodbine's Polytrack, added another laurel to his resume in Sunday's $161,580 Nijinsky (G2) on the turf. Benefiting from a textbook stalk and pounce trip off a steady pace, the 5-2 favorite quickened well to finish 1 1/8 miles in 1:46.69 on the firm course.
"He's a really nice horse. He always has been," Hall of Fame trainer Roger Attfield said. "He's had some problems with his wind. He's had some fairly significant (throat) surgeries. I didn't think they could beat him. The only thing I was concerned about was they said it was supposed to be the hottest, most humid day of the summer. We obviously have (his breathing problems) corrected very well."
Are You Kidding Me flashed talent at two and three. A closing second in the Summer (G2) here in 2012, the bay was a respectable fifth in Keeneland's Breeders' Futurity (G1). He opened 2013 with a photo-finish loss to a then in-form Noble Tune at Tampa and even tried the Florida Derby (G1), where he faded to eighth behind Orb in his only career attempt on dirt. In his final start as a sophomore, he broke through with his first stakes victory in the Kent (G3) at Delaware Park. His 2014 campaign was both abbreviated and lackluster.
Resurfacing with a third in the April 25 San Francisco Mile (G3) for Hall of Famer Neil Drysdale, Are You Kidding Me then rejoined Attfield. His Grade 2 scores on two surfaces may stand the five-year-old in good stead come time for the Sovereign Awards, but it's obviously early days right now.
The respective second through fourth in the Nijinsky -- Golden Sabre, Za Approval and Lucky Speed -- are all worth noting as well. Golden Sabre, a Sam-Son Farm homebred by Medaglia d'Oro and out of Grade 2 vixen Strike Softly, was short of room in the stretch and finished well once clear. Beaten a half-length by Are You Kidding Me, he may have served up a stronger challenge to the winner with a clean trip. Yet Golden Sabre was getting six pounds from Are You Kidding Me (the 123-pound highweight), so the winner remains better from the weight perspective.
Za Approval, now seven, isn't the same horse who finished second to Wise Dan in both the Woodbine Mile (G1) and Breeders' Cup Mile (G1) in 2013. The "old dog" may have resented the "new trick" of applying blinkers on Sunday. Slowly away from the gate, he appeared to have an awkward head carriage in the stretch, endured trouble, and almost ran up into a rival. I'm a far cry from Thomas Herding Technique, but it gave off the vibe of being unhappy in the headgear. Za Approval finally got traction late to grab third by a nose from Lucky Speed.
German shipper Lucky Speed ran a solid fourth in his comeback from a 10-month layoff. Traveling comfortably just about in midpack early for Andrasch Starke, he advanced into the hunt, only to be outkicked. That wasn't a huge surprise, considering this was too short for the 2013 Deutsches Derby (G1) hero. But for the same reason, it should serve as a tightener for the son of Silvano. Watch where trainer Peter Schiergen aims him next.
In contrast, this trip is a tad too far for Excaper, who tired to sixth. The Ian Black trainee was also removing blinkers for the first time in ages (2012 to be precise).
Photo of Are You Kidding Me (left) and Golden Sabre courtesy of WEG/Michael Burns Photography.