09/20/2012 3:17PM

Parx Racing: Questing faces only three rivals in $1 million Cotillion

Tom Keyser
Questing convincingly wins the Alabama, her second Grade 1 of the Saratoga meet. She'll face only three rivals in the Cotillion.

It would have been far-fetched just a few months ago to think that the presence of Questing in a $1 million race would be largely responsible for that race drawing just a four-horse field.

But such is the case for Saturday’s Grade 1 Cotillion at Parx where Questing will look to continue to build her r è sum é for a 3-year-old filly championship when she takes on just three opponents in the 1 1/16-mile race.

“I didn’t think that was the case earlier in the year, but obviously after winning two Grade 1s at Saratoga, and the way she did it, I could see it being a smaller field, but I was surprised to only see four,” said Kiaran McLaughlin, who trains Questing for Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum’s Godolphin Stable.

Questing’s competition does include the undefeated My Miss Aurelia, last year’s 2-year-old filly champion who won her only start this year in a 6 1/2-furlong overnight stakes.

The Cotillion is the co-feature on a 12-race card at Parx that also includes the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby for 3-year-old males going 1 1/8 miles and the $300,000 Gallant Bob for 3-year-old sprinters.

After sputtering on turf in allowance races at Gulfstream and Belmont, Questing was moved to the dirt by McLaughlin on June 24 where she won a first-level allowance by 3 3/4 lengths at Belmont. Questing followed that up with front-running tour-de-force victories in the Coaching Club American Oaks, which she won by 4 1/4 lengths, and the Alabama, which she won by nine.

In both races, Questing ducked out in the stretch, but that seemingly was from the whip.

[PARX RACING: Get PPs for Pennsylvania Derby and Cotillion]

“Hopefully, that’s from the stick and we will ask Irad to keep his stick down until he needs it,” said McLaughlin, referring to jockey Irad Ortiz Jr.

The short field isn’t likely to impact how Questing will run, as she figures to be on or near the lead.

“We’re going to break running and probably Corey Nakatani [on My Miss Aurelia] is going to be close to us and we’re going to see how it goes,” McLaughlin said.

Questing has remained in Saratoga since the Alabama and has continued to train nicely over the synthetic surface at the Godolphin training center.

“She continues to train very well, looks fabulous,” McLaughlin said.

Questing is the 124-pound highweight and will be spotting seven pounds to My Miss Aurelia, two to Dixie Strike, who beat males in the Prince of Wales at Fort Erie, and 10 to Moment in Dixie.

My Miss Aurelia went 4 for 4 as a 2-year-old, capped by a victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies in her first start around two turns. She was sidelined due to a shin injury and didn’t return to the races until August. My Miss Aurelia, trained by Steve Asmussen, won the Mandy’s Gold Stakes at Saratoga after breaking poorly and lugging in because she didn’t change leads properly.

She is stretching out to 1 1/16 miles in the Cotillion and facing a top-quality filly in Questing, but her connections aren’t ducking.

“She did it last year going from three one-turn races into a two-turn race and it was a very demanding track that day to go two turns,” said George Bolton, who co-owns My Miss Aurelia with Stonestreet Stables. “We’re not in the business of ducking horses, we’re in the business of running our horses where we think they belong and Steve thinks she’s coming into the race in good shape.”

Dixie Strike, trained by Mark Casse, has won on dirt, turf, and synthetic. In her only start on dirt, she beat Canadian-bred males in the $500,000 Prince of Wales Stakes at Fort Erie. Ramon Dominguez has picked up the mount.

Moment in Dixie, trained by Jimmy Toner, won her first two starts in front-running fashion before stumbling badly at the start of the Serena’s Song Stakes at Monmouth, in which she finished second. Most recently she finished second in the Smart Guest Stakes at Saratoga.

Jose Lezcano rides Moment in Dixie from the rail.