01/19/2013 9:41PM

Eclipse Award winner Questing: Champion filly a blend of English and American influences


Hard Spun conformation photocourtesy DarleyHard Spun

Questing came alive for Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum and Kiaran McLaughlin last summer after being switched from turf to dirt and scoring a dominant win in a one-mile optional-claiming race at Belmont. That effort led to back-to-back Grade 1 wins in the Coaching Club American Oaks and Alabama Stakes, with the latter performance, a nine-length win at 1 1/4 miles, proving to be one of the best of the year in any division.

Questing’s immediate female family has a propensity for turf, so it was no surprise that she remained in England, where she was bred, to start her career. Her dam, Chercheuse, by Seeking the Gold, won two turf stakes at minor tracks in France and placed in the CERF Stakes at Del Mar on grass. Chercheuse is a half-sister to Asawer, by Darshaan, who likewise won a minor turf stakes in England and also placed in Group 2 and Group 3 events.

Under trainer John Gosden, Questing raced three times on grass as a juvenile in England, with one win and two competitive placings in group stakes. Godolphin decided to give Questing a try on dirt and she was sent to the U.S. to start in the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1), finishing fifth. At that point, she remained in the U.S. under McLaughlin but was unplaced twice on turf. Once put back on dirt in June, she thrived and rose to a championship level.

Delving deeper into Questing’s female family reveals a dirt influence from her fourth dam, 1981 Broodmare of the Year Natashka, by Dedicate. Natashka won five stakes races on dirt in the U.S., including the Alabama Stakes, and produced Ashland Stakes winner Truly Bound and Test Stakes winner Ivory Wand, in addition to three European stakes winners on turf. Ivory Wand is the second dam of Group 2 winner and sire Rossini and, more importantly, Darley stallion Elusive Quality, one of the more versatile international sires of the contemporary era.

Questing’s third dam, Tash, produced multiple group winner and sire Mukaddamah and Queen of Women, the second dam of multiple Grade 1 winner Switch.

Questing’s sire, Darley’s Hard Spun, edged out Scat Daddy as the leading North America-based second-crop sire by earnings for 2012 after finishing a close second to that stallion on the freshman sire list in 2011. As a racehorse, Grade 1 winner Hard Spun proved to be one of the last great progeny of his sire, the legendary Danzing. He debuted for owner Rick Porter and trainer Larry Jones with four consecutive open-length wins during winter 2006-2007, finishing with a victory in the Lecomte Stakes. An emphatic score in the Lane’s End Stakes two starts later set Hard Spun up for the Kentucky Derby, where he unleashed his impressive cruising speed and led well into the stretch before yielding to Street Sense. 

Hard Spun finished third in the Preakness, fourth in the Belmont and second in the Haskell leading up to his Grade 1 win at seven furlongs in the King’s Bishop Stakes at Saratoga, and he followed that by defeating Street Sense by 1 1/4 lengths in the 1 1/8-mile Kentucky Cup Classic Stakes at Turfway. Retired after finishing second to Curlin in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Hard Spun is off to a promising stud career to say the least. Darley boosted his stud fee by $20,000 to $60,000 in 2013, based in part on Questing’s championship season.

Hard Spun is the sire of 331 foals from his first two crops, a very high number, indicating his popularity, and he has delivered. He has sired 16 stakes winners, including Zo Impressive, another top three-year-old filly of 2012, who won the Mother Goose Stakes and was second in the CCA Oaks and Acorn Stakes. He also has sired English Group 2 winner Red Duke and Grade 3 winners Hierro, Hard Not To Like, and Easter Gift.

To read about Questing's Eclipse Award-winning championship season, click here.