Updated 08/18/2012 07:52 PM
The Spa Spot: Questing romps in 132nd Alabama
Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. celebrating at the wire
Questing led from gate to wire Saturday and humbled what was considered a strong field to win the historic Alabama Stakes by nine lengths.
The Godolphin filly trained by Kiaran McLaughlin repeated her performance in the Coaching Club American Oaks with a torrid early pace that melted the competition. She turned in fractions of :22.84, :46.01 and 1:09.74 that looked to be too aggressive for a 1 1/4 miles race.
“I was thinking it was too fast, but I liked the way she was doing it," McLaughlin said. "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.”
Under jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr., she waltzed home - though not exactly straight down the stretch - for a decisive victory in 2:01.29 and paid $6.40 as the 2-1 second choice in the wagering.
The final time of 2:01.29 marked the fastest Alabama since Love Sign won in 2:01 in 1980.
“She was going fast, but she was so relaxed,” said Ortiz, who turned 20 on August 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.”
Her trip home in front of a crowd of 34,308 was quick and erratic.
“I think she was ducking each way a little bit today," McLaughlin said, "instead of all the time left-handed, but as long as she’s five in front I’m not worried about it. I don’t think she was getting tired. She’s more just looking around, ducking a little bit.”
McLaughlin received the Hard Spun filly late last year after she opened her career on the turf in Europe and was fifth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies on dirt. He ran her twice on turf earlier this year before switching to dirt, where she is 3-for-3, including a pair of Grade 1 wins.
“She’s a special filly," McLaughin said. "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.”
McLaughlin smiled when someone asked whether Questing is the top 3-year-old filly in the U.S.
“It appears that way right now," he said. "She’s definitely the best 3-year-old filly in America on the dirt.”
In Lingerie was second and Via Vallaggio was third, 17 lengths behind the winner. Live Oak Plantation's Zo Impressive broke down during the gallop-out and 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."
Favored Grace Hall tracked Questing for six furlongs, but couldn't handle the assignment, backed off the pace and finished fifth in the seven-horse field.