TORONTO, August 10 - Stephen Chesney and Cory Hoffman's Melmich will be seeking a third win on the trot in Sunday's $125,000 Grade 3 Seagram Cup, at Woodbine.
Trained by Kevin Attard, the now six-year-old son of Wilko is undefeated in 2017 with an optional claiming win to start the season on May 31 followed by a rallying effort to take the 1 1/4-mile Dominion Day Stakes on July 1.
"We're very lucky. It's not easy to keep these types of horses competing at this high a level year after," said Attard of the ultra-consistent gelding.
While the chestnut was often closer to the pace earlier in his career, Melmich has taken a more relaxed approach in recent starts.
"He's always been versatile," said Attard. "When we've needed him to be on the lead, he's gone; and when he had to come off the pace, he has. This year, we've taken more of a stance to take him off the pace. He's an easy horse to ride and will do what you like him to do, but looking at the horses we've been running against, that (taking back) seems to have been the right approach so far."
The multiple graded stakes winner, with a record of 13-7-3 from 29 starts and purse earnings of $667,339, will renew a rivalry in Sunday's 1 1/16-mile Tapeta route with Are You Kidding Me who has earned Sovereign Award honours as Canada's champion older horse the past two seasons.
A victory over Are You Kidding Me in the 10-furlong Dominion Day put Melmich in the driver's seat early into the 2017 campaign, but Attard feels that turning back in distance may favour his familiar foe.
"At a mile and a sixteenth, Are You Kidding Me is a much tougher horse so we're going to have our work cut out for us," said Attard.
Attard would love to see Melmich win a Sovereign Award as champion older horse but feels a result on Sunday is required to turn the tables.
"He has to be able to beat Are You Kidding Me at a mile and a sixteenth," says Attard. "You have to dethrone the champ at what he's best at and that's going to be a big task."
Trained by Roger Attfield, Are You Kidding Me has 10 wins, six seconds and seven thirds from 35 career starts and will be guided by Rafael Hernandez for the first time on Sunday. The seven-year-old Run Away and Hide bay started his campaign with a win on April 29 but just missed in the Grade 2 Eclipse when a neck back of Dragon Bay and last time out landed a determined third in the Dominion Day. The multiple graded stakes winning millionaire posted a sharp breeze in :59.60 on August 6 preparing for Sunday's event.
Gigantic Breeze, the Dominion Day runner-up, has enjoyed a breakthrough campaign in 2017 with three wins from four starts. The four-year-old Giant's Causeway chestnut, trained by Alex McPherson for Hopefield Farm, is expected to be prominently placed under regular pilot Gary Boulanger.
Secret Passage, Bear'sway, Keen Gizmo and Unbridled Juan complete the field.
The Seagram Cup is slated as Race 8 on Sunday's 10-race card. First post time is 1p.m. Fans can watch and wager on all the action via HPIbet.com
FIELD FOR THE GRADE 3 SEAGRAM CUP
POST / HORSE / JOCKEY / TRAINER
1 / Gigantic Breeze / Gary Boulanger / Alex McPherson
2 / Secret Passage / Patrick Husbands / Malcolm Pierce
3 / Melmich / Eurico Rosa da Silva / Kevin Attard
4 / Bear'sway / Jesse Campbell / Reade Baker
5 / Keen Gizmo / David Moran / Josie Carroll
6 / Unbridled Juan / Luis Contreras / Josie Carroll
7 / Are You Kidding Me / Rafael Hernandez / Roger Attfield