The dominating score was achieved in wire-to-wire fashion under Irad Ortiz Jr.
“She’s definitely the best 3-year-old filly in America on the dirt,” said her trainer, Kiaran McLaughlin.
Seeking her second Grade 1 win of the meet, Questing wasted no time making the lead, sizzling through opening fractions of 22.84 seconds for the quarter-mile and 46.01 at the half as Grace Hall, the favorite, and Zo Impressive tracked in second and third, respectively. In Lingerie launched her run at the leader through three-quarters in 1:09.74, but Questing never let that challenger get close, shaking clear turning for home and widening her advantage as she weaved in the stretch. In Lingerie finished nine lengths behind in second.
The final time of 2:01.29 for 1 ¼ miles marked the fastest Alabama since Love Sign won in 2:01 in 1980. Questing paid $6.40 for a $2 win wager as the 2-1 second choice.
“She was going fast, but she was so relaxed,” said Ortiz, who turned 20 on Aug. 11 and has won three Grade 1 races during the 2012 Saratoga meet, more than any other jockey. “I kept my hands down, and she was moving so easily. She was just galloping. Her ears were up and she was playing with her ears. She was amazing. I never rode one like that.”
McLaughlin, who trains the homebred for Godolphin Racing, had the same assessment as Ortiz.
“I was thinking [the pace] was too fast, but I liked the way she was doing it,” said McLaughlin. “I looked behind her, and a lot of them were riding hard to keep up. I was nervous about the fractions, but she was doing it the right way.”
Questing, a daughter of Hard Spun, placed in a pair of Group 3 races on turf in England for trainer John Gosden as a 2-year-old before finishing fifth in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies in her dirt and North American debut. Transferred to McLaughlin’s barn following the Breeders’ Cup, she was fourth and fifth in a pair of optional claimers on turf this spring before her connections decided to switch her back to the dirt.
The move paid off as Questing rolled to a 3 ¾-length optional-claiming score on June 24 at Belmont Park, then posted a 4 ¼-length triumph, despite drifting out, in the Grade 1 TVG Coaching Club American Oaks on July 21 at Saratoga.
“She’s a special filly,” said McLaughlin. “I’m glad we have her on dirt here in North America and that we tried her on it. “She could have won today going a mile and a half.”
Via Villaggio finished 17 lengths behind the winner in third and was 1 ¼ lengths clear of fourth-place finisher Zo Impressive, who was vanned off after the race with a lateral condylar fracture to her right-front cannon bone.
“It was obvious that it was displaced, but it did not fracture the skin,” said Celeste Kunz, on-call veterinarian for the American Association of Equine Practitioners. “A compression boot was put on, which fits and looks like a ski boot and contains that fracture. She was put on the horse ambulance and vanned back to her barn, where Dr. [James] Hunt was going to take X-rays to see the extent of the injury. It is a career-threatening injury depending on the extent of the fracture and if any other bones were involved, but it does not appear life-threatening at this point. She was able to walk off the ambulance.”
–NYRA Press contributed to this report.
Questing/NYRA photo by Courtney Stafford