Spa Day 2, 7/21/12
SARATOGA SPRINGS -- Irad Ortiz Jr. came to the U.S. from Puerto Rico 13 months ago; Questing came here from England a few months later.
Their paths have dovetailed nicely -- albeit with a skewed angle thrown in there -- sending the rider and horse straight to their first Grade I victory today at Saratoga Race Course.
Questing responded to Ortiz's left-handed whip by drifting way out to the middle of the track in deep stretch, but it didn't matter as she won the Coaching Club American Oaks by 4 1/4 lengths over 2-1 morning-line favorite Zo Impressive.
It was the first graded stakes win of any kind for the 19-year-old Ortiz.
"It's so exciting," he said. "It's unbelievable to get my first graded stakes at Saratoga."
Questing tracked long shot Yara and made a powerful move on the turn to take the lead, then lengthened it when summoned for more run at the quarter pole by Ortiz with one crack of his right stick. They were in control, but he reminded her to finish by switching to his left, and she drifted out without being threatened by Zo Impressive.
"We'll worry about it later, but we got the win, and it's official," trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. "I didn't like that [drifting], but hopefully it was just from the stick. He might have been excited. He's a young rider, and we'll learn from it and see why she did it."
McLaughlin and Godolphin Racing have won the CCA Oaks two years in a row. It's Tricky won the race last year. Godolphin also took the CCA Oaks with Jilbab in 2002 and Music Note in 2008, when the race was run at Belmont Park and the fillies were trained by Saeed bin Suroor.
McLaughlin said they'll consider the Alabama for Questing's next start. Trainer Tom Albertrani said Zo Impressive will definitely head to the Alabama.
In Lingerie went off as the 3-2 favorite, but never made a serious bid as she came off the turn and finished in third, 6 1/2 lengths behind Questing.