08/18/2012 6:02PM

Saratoga: Questing runs rivals off their feet in the Alabama

Barbara D. Livingston
Despite setting fast early fractions and ducking from rider Irad Ortiz Jr.'s whip, Questing wins the Alabama by nine lengths.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – She may have run sideways in the stretch, but Questing vaulted straight to the top of the 3-year-old filly division Saturday with a dominating nine-length victory in the Grade 1, $600,000 Alabama Stakes at sun-kissed Saratoga.

Unleashing an arsenal of speed rarely seen by a 3-year-old filly going 1 1/4 miles, Questing, under Irad Ortiz Jr., ran her six opponents off their feet, and though she weaved in and out a couple of times in the stretch, she was a spectacular winner.

In Lingerie, the Black-Eyed Susan winner, finished second, eight lengths ahead of Via Villaggio. Zo Impressive, the Mother Goose winner, finished fourth and had to be vanned off with what was diagnosed as a condylar fracture to her right front cannon bone. The injury is considered career-threatening, but not life-threatening, according to Dr. Celeste Kunz, the on-call veterinarian for the American Association of Equine Practitioners.

Grace Hall, the even-money favorite, finished fifth and appeared uncomfortable shortly after the wire, according to jockey Javier Castellano. But after the race, trainer Tony Dutrow said Grace Hall came back in good shape.

Sea Island and Uptown Bertie completed the order of finish.

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Questing, owned by Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum’s Godolphin Racing and trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, added the Alabama to her earlier victory at this meet in the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks and now heads into the fall as the leader of the 3-year-old filly division.

“She’s definitely the best 3-year-old filly in America on the dirt,” said McLaughlin, who first put her on dirt in a June allowance race at Belmont Park.

The victory capped a whirlwind 24 hours for the 20-year-old Ortiz, who on Friday was removed from the Saratoga turf course on a stretcher and taken to Saratoga Hospital with an apparent ankle injury. X-rays were negative, and he rode Saturday, but was unseated during the running of the sixth race when his mount clipped heels.

But Ortiz bounced back up and rode the remainder of the card.

“It’s unbelievable, yesterday, today; thank God I’m okay,” Ortiz said as he walked out to ride the 11th race, in which he finished second. “I’m a younger guy; it’s good when you are young.”

It’s also good when you’re riding fast horses, and Questing proved yet again she is indeed fast.

Breaking from post 6, Questing immediately assumed control of the Alabama, opening up a one-length lead in a quarter run in 22.84 seconds. She continued on through a half-mile in 46.01 seconds and six furlongs in 1:09.74. That was .06 of a second faster than Bodemeister ran six furlongs in the Kentucky Derby.

Ortiz said it did not feel like Questing was going that fast.

“Going so fast I can’t feel it,” Ortiz said. “I feel like my horse is going relaxed, always.”

Despite the fast fractions, Questing came to the quarter pole with a three-length lead, which helped ease McLaughlin’s nerves.

“I was nervous, but I liked when she turned for home just the way she was going because the rest of them looked like they were riding hard,” McLaughlin said.

Questing was having difficulty changing leads, so Ortiz hit her three times at the three-sixteenths pole, and Questing ducked out. Approaching the eighth pole, Questing ducked in. Though she finished the race on her wrong lead, Questing covered the 1 1/4 miles in 2:01.29 and returned $6.40 as the second choice.

“I think she was waiting for the horses,” Ortiz said. “She’s playing and she can run like that.”

Questing also ducked out in the Coaching Club, something McLaughlin attributed to the exuberance of a young rider. Saturday, McLaughlin said Questing was just playing.

“I think she was ducking a little bit each way today instead of all the time left-handed, but as long as she’s five in front, I’m not worried about it.

“She’s looking, she’s not getting tired running that fast.”

McLaughlin said the next logical race for Questing would be the $1 million Cotillion at Parx Racing on Sept. 22, though he would consult with Godolphin racing manager Simon Crisford first.

Meanwhile, Grace Hall, last year’s Spinaway winner, was a disappointing fifth, beaten 31 lengths. Castellano said he knew early on that it wasn’t going to be Grace Hall’s day.

“She broke out of the gate, she got a good position into the first turn, but when we got to the backside she lost the bridle,” Castellano said. “She’s got so much class that she got to the half-mile pole, but then after that she went the wrong way.”

Grass Is Greener More than 1 year ago
105 Beyer Speed Figure. Andy Beyer has lost his choo. The BSF is such an arbitrary number it is more like a crap shoot. His protege and heir apparent was tempted to assume that In Lingerie just topped her previous dirt Beyer high with a 92, thus awarding Questing a whopping 110. I think that's a reasonable figure considering that she ran the 3rd fastest Alabama ever and tied for the 6th fastest Travers. Both Point Given and Bernardini who ran 1/5th slower than her received over 110 BSF for their efforts. But Andy Beyer overruled and assigned 105.
JoyJackson21 More than 1 year ago
Wow! What a great, eye-popping race by Questing. Her speed figures should be fantastic when they are revealed. Fabulous, great race by Questing. She was impressive! After that performance, I think she could give male horses a run for their money in a Breeder's Cup race. Congratulations to Questing and her connections for an awesome race. In Lingerie, a really nice horse in her own right, was nine lengths back in second, eight lengths in front of the show horse Via Villagio. That the first two horses were at least 17 lengths ahead of the rest of the field is incredible. My prayers go out to Zo Impressive. She's a wonderful, talented filly, she provided a lot of enjoyment this year. I hope she heals quickly. It's more than possible she will retire after this injury and go on to enjoy the life of being a mom to future champs. Good luck, Zo Impressive!
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
Hey animal, or whatever your alias is Grace Hall is a horse, that's all. I think the crap you see is your own life.
Grass Is Greener More than 1 year ago
I think Grace Hall bounced plus she's probably distance challenge. She should try Questing again in the $1mil G1 Cotillion at 8.5 furlongs - Questing bounced too in the CCA Oaks after her previous105 BSF breakout but she only bounced slightly in the CCA Oaks while Grace Hall spit the bit chasing the suicidal pace. You get $200k for finishing second in the Cotillion, certainly a much better deal than running in the $400k Beldame against It's Tricky and Royal Delta. I think It's Tricky is sitting on a big time performance in the Personal Ensign. I'm betting her to come out on top of Royal Delta.
Vincent Condeni More than 1 year ago
I'm not a Vet but there is something curious about Questing's running style, beside being the fastest Filly on the Planet! If She continues to Zig-Zag during the stretch run, she is headed for a tragic breakdown. Contrary to other views expressed in this Blog, She does not begin Her Dance because she is whipped. The Jock only begins to whip Her to help her run straight, and it works! Since Q runs so fast, she is putting enumerous strain on Her front ankles, knees and upper legs. I have bet and watched Horse racfing for the past 50 years, and never seen a Stakes Horse run so erractically during the Stretch run. I hope Professional Vets and Reputable Trainers provide their views on the cause of "Q's" curious Dance from the Eight Pole to the Wire! Giving "Q's" animated stretch run behavior, I don't believe she will make it to the Breeders Cup Gate in November. I hope I'm wrong! Vincent
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
Vincent, I have to agree. All those forces in wrong directions - - - You can't even calculate the pressure on her joints. She does Not like the whip!
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
Lets remember. She is still green when it comes to dirt. She may very well be just looking around. But I see the point about zig zagging potentially hurting her. I highly doubt she is running hurt though.
Grass Is Greener More than 1 year ago
Don't worry about Questing. She's fine. NFL receivers do that all the time when they are clear.
Jen More than 1 year ago
another breakdown.. how sad..
john deksnis More than 1 year ago
Also: Not only did Questing run the fastest Alabama in about 20 years, she also ran faster than the last 19 Travers winners.
john deksnis More than 1 year ago
Here we go again. Questing is another potentially great horse with a chance to become America's darling. And I, for one, hope that unlike I'll Have Another, she keeps going and does just that. Very happy for Hard Spun, too. Because by going to the breeding shed as soon as he did, I think he was deprived of a chance to really prove what a special horse he was. He was one tough tryer. Would have loved to see him race another year or two.
Frank Kulcsar More than 1 year ago
Horse ran 2 miles --would he have been better with Ramon up--I don,t think so--anyone can win with a powerful engine like that--best horse in the race
Robert More than 1 year ago
really all this means so far is that she really likes the Saratoga dirt like a lot of front running horses do. Lets she what she does on the Parx surface. If she can really run that fast then she should be pointed to the classic at speed favoring Santa Anita not the ladies classic.
Susan Huart More than 1 year ago
That was an amazing race. Between Ortiz mishaps and the high strung Questing, they went in with a good story. Questing was all over the home stretch but the others couldn't catch her. Bravo, girl! It was a very exciting race to watch.