KENT STAKES | PURSE: $200,000 | 3-YEAR-OLDS | GRADE 3 | 1 1/8 MILE (TURF)
Favored Are You Kidding Me shipped across the border and won outside Canada for the first time, powering home by four lengths to take the $200,000 Kent Stakes at Delaware Park Sept. 7 in near-record time.
The sophomore son of Run Away and Hide went 1 1/8 miles on the turf wire-to-wire in 1:47.61, just a bit off the 1:47.27 track record set last September by Optimizer.
Trained by Roger Attfield for Ronald Kirk, John Bates, and Michael Riordan, Are You Kidding Me took the lead from the start and managed an easy early tempo on the front end with Hard Enough a length behind on the outside and 13-1 shot Majestic Jess tracking third on the rail.
A quarter went in :25.20 with a half in :48.69 and three-quarters in 1:11.65 while Are You Kidding Me maintained his advantage under a 116-pound impost including jockey Rajiv Maragh.
Turning for home on the lead, the Attfield trainee kicked into second gear with a strong burst after running a mile in 1: 35.69, widening his lead under urging to the line. Michael With Us angled outside under a drive to get up for the place while no threat to the winner, passing Hard Enough by a head.
"The trip was pretty straightforward," Maragh said. "He broke really willing, he got comfortable on the lead, and he had a lot left at the finish... nobody really challenged him.
"I figured if he was going to be on the lead and he was comfortable, I was going to take advantage of it. When I got to the three-eighths pole and I asked to him to go, he really took off. At that point, I knew they were really going to have to finish strong to catch us."
Bettors sent Are You Kidding Me off as the 7-5 favorite in a seven-horse field; he returned $4.80, $2.80, and $2.20 while Michael With Us brought $3.80 and $2.20 and Hard Enough paid $2.60. Readyshakego, Majestic Jess, Fear the Kitten, and Grand Tito completed the order of finish. Saint Vigeur scratched.
Bred in Kentucky by Bates, Kirk, Riordan, Greg McDonald, and Shaw & Sones out of the Street Cry mare Sweet Awakening, Are You Kidding Me now has a 3-3-2 record from 13 starts, with earnings of $301,689. He came off a runner-up finish in the July 27 Toronto Cup Stakes at Woodbine, and was second in the Summer Stakes Presented by TVG there last year.
The Kent was his first win since back-to-back maiden and allowance scores at Woodbine as a 2-year-old. In a short-lived dirt career, he ran eighth of 10 in the Besilu Stables Florida Derby in his only attempt on the surface earlier this season.