SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Questing handled a return to Grade 1 company with aplomb Saturday at Saratoga Race Course, registering a 4 ¼-length victory to give trainer Kiaran McLaughlin and owner Godolphin Racing a repeat score in the $300,000 TVG Coaching Club American Oaks. The win was the first in a graded stakes for 19-year-old jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr.
Stepping up in class off an impressive win in an entry-level optional claimer at Belmont Park , Questing raced in second as longshot Yara opened a 3 ½-length lead through the opening quarter mile. Questing inched up along the backstretch to engage on the outside and claimed the top spot with 4 ½ furlongs to travel in the 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-old fillies.
Putting away Yara on the far turn, Questing kicked away under a drive in the stretch, maintaining a clear lead while drifting out as runner-up Zo Impressive gave vain chase in second.
“I broke good, and when the No. 3 horse [Yara] went, I saved my horse,” said Ortiz, a native of Puerto Rico . “She was good and relaxed. When I asked her turning for home, she went on.”
Ortiz began his career on New Year’s Day, 2011 at Hipódromo Camarero in Puerto Rico before shifting his tack to The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) circuit in June of that year. He rode Questing for the first time in her optional claiming victory.
“Irad [Ortiz] did a great job,” said McLaughlin. “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, the 7-2 third choice, returned $9.80 for a $2 win wager and completed the distance in 1:50.30.
As a 2-year-old, Questing placed in a pair of Group 3 races in England and was fifth in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, her first start on the dirt. The homebred opened her 3-year-old campaign by finishing fourth and fifth, respectively, in a pair of turf optional claimers at Gulfstream Park and Belmont before her dirt romp on June 24.
“She didn’t run so well on the turf [in North America ] twice,” said McLaughlin, who teamed with Godolphin to win the 2011 TVG Coaching Club American Oaks with It’s Tricky. “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 1 win, for Godolphin. It’s wonderful for Sheikh Mohammed, and we’re so proud to have her.”
Overall, Questing is 3-1-1 in eight starts with $314,876 in earnings, including $180,000 for her TVG Coaching Club American Oaks score.
Zo Impressive, like Questing a daughter of Hard Spun, was 2 ¼ lengths clear of third-place finisher and 3-2 favorite In Lingerie. Disposablepleasure, Funny Proposition, and Yara completed the order of finish.