Are You Kidding Me, the senior member of the field at age nine, split horses in deep stretch and powered to a half-length victory in Sunday's Grade 3 Dominion Day Stakes at Woodbine Racetrack.
The field for the Dominion Day, a 1 ¼ mile stakes for three-year-olds and upward, was reduced to five by the early scratch of 2-1 morning-line favourite Souper Tapit.
“He showed what he could do,” said winning rider Rafael Hernandez. “He's always got something left in the tank.
“He's an old, classy dude. He knows what he's doing, he knows how to win races and he showed up today. The other years he's been doing the same thing.”
Final Copy, also trained by Roger Attfield but owned by Chiefswood Stable, set the early pace as expected while racing for the first time on a synthetic surface, cutting out moderate fractions of :25.45 and :50.85.
Aheadbyacentury, runner-up in last year's Queen's Plate, had moved up on the rail to put pressure on the front-runner heading into the clubhouse with Pumpkin Rumble also in close attendance.
There was a new leader after six furlongs in 1:14.50 as Aheadbyacentury was showing the way by a head as Final Copy began to retreat.
Are You Kidding Me was beginning to join the fray at this point while Special Forces, the 6-5 favorite while riding the crest of an impressive seasonal bow and looking for his fourth consecutive win, trailed the field.
It was anybody's race turning for home and Pumpkin Rumble had moved to the lead as the mile went by in 1:38.55.
The final eighth of a mile boiled down to a sprint between Are You Kidding Me and four-year-old Special Forces and it was the veteran who prevailed in his 45th career start.
“It was quite the fight, but he always doesn't give up, he always gives you the most he has in the tank and he showed up today in the stretch and he still has more,” said Hernandez.
Pumpkin Rumble, also seeking his fourth straight win but making his seasonal bow after capturing last year's Grade 3 Valedictory at 1 ¾ miles, ran very well to finish third, three-quarters of a length behind the runner-up.
Aheadbyacentury hung tough in the final stages but had to settle for fourth money, just another neck back, with Final Copy completing the order of finish.
Are You Kidding Me, racing for the partnership of Mike Riordan, Ron Kirk and John Bates, was Canada's champion older male in 2015 and 2016. The Dominion Day victory was his first travelling as far as 1 ¼ miles.
Attfield was recording a record fifth victory in the Dominion Day, including an upset last year with Tiz a Slam.
Are You Kidding Me had opened up his current campaign on the turf at Keeneland then posted a third-place finish in the Grade 2 Eclipse Stakes, a 1 1/16-mile race which he had won on three previous occasions, and finished second in a 1 1/8-mile allowance race.
“He's getting older and he's had quite a bit of time off this winter,” said Attfield, and sometimes those older horses, when they get that much time off, they get a little bit rusty, it takes them a little bit longer. It seemed like he just lost a step or two to be quite honest with you, but he went into this race really well.”
Are You Kidding Me returned $7.40, $3.00, and $2.40 as the second choice and topped an 6-4 exacta with Special Forces ($2.50, $2.20) worth $15.80. Pumpkin Rumble ($2.40), the 3-1 third choice, completed a 6-4-5 trifecta worth $16.15 for a $1 ticket and Aheadbyacentury, the longest shot in the field at 9-1, capped a 6-4-5-3 superfecta of $31.95.
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