Godolphin Racing's Questing earned the first grade I win of her career and gave 19-year-old jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. the same when she took the $300,000 TVG Coaching Club American Oaks (gr. I) by 4 1/4 lengths at Saratoga Race Course July 21 (VIDEO).
Ortiz, a native of Puerto Rico who began his career in January of 2011 at Hipódromo Camarero before shifting his tack to the New York Racing Association circuit in June of that year, piloted the 3-year-old daughter of Hard Spun to victory over Zo Impressive and 3-2 favorite In Lingerie with cool textbook style. Outgunned at the break by Yara and jockey Joel Rosario, Ortiz allowed them to take the lead in the 1 1/8-mile event for an opening quarter in :23.21, moved out entering the first turn, and sent his Kiaran McLaughlin-trained mount up to grab the lead for a half in :47.65.
"Irad did a great job," remarked McLaughlin, who teamed with Godolphin to win the 2011 TVG Coaching Club American Oaks with It's Tricky. "He rode an excellent race for a 19-year-old kid. We thought we were faster than Yara, but he said, and we talked about it, 'If she goes, let her go.' And he rode a great race. He used good judgment. he did everything right."
Questing rolled off the turn in command through three quarters in 1:12.20, and although she drifted out in the lane while clocking a mile in 1:37.16, the closers could not get to her. She slipped under the wire in the center of the track in a final time of 1:50.30.
"She didn't run so well on the turf twice," McLaughlin said of Questing, who was fourth and fifth in allowance events on the grass at Gulfstream Park and Belmont Park earlier in the season. "We switched her to the dirt, and now she's 2-for-2 for us on the dirt. It was a great win, a grade I win for Godolphin. It's wonderful for Sheikh Mohammed, and we're so proud to have her."
Questing, the 7-2 third choice in a field of six, returned $9.80, $5.70, and $3.70 while Zo Impressive paid $3.80 and $2.60 and In Lingerie brought $2.40. Disposablepleasure, Funny Proposition, and Yara completed the order of finish.
The 1-2 runners completed a Hard Spun exacta; Zo Impressive, who won the June 23 Mother Goose Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont last out, is also by the Darley sire.
"She ran well, but the winner was more impressive today," trainer Tom Albertrani said of Zo Impressive. "We were second best. We took a shot at her at the quarter-pole. It looked like we were going to get by her at one point, but she broke away from us again."
The $600,000 Alabama Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga Aug. 18 was mentioned as a likely target by both McLaughlin and Albertrani.
Bred in Great Britain by Darley out of the Seeking the Gold mare Chercheuse, Questing placed in a pair of group III races in England and was fifth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) last season as a 2-year-old.
With the CCA Oaks score she improved her career record to 3-1-1 from eight starts, for earnings of $314,876. It was her second straight victory. She had won a June 24 allowance optional claimer going a mile at Belmont Park by 3 3/4 lengths.