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Tuesday, August 21, 2012


A Lady Leading Yet Again


By Brendan O'Meara

2:01.29.

This is a pretty stunning time these days for ten furlongs.

I’ll Have Another ran that distance in 201.83 seconds—while Bodemeister set the pace for him. Delaware Handicap winner Royal Delta—last year’s Alabama winner—could only muster 2:03.51 seconds for ten furlongs. Drosselmeyer could only manage 2:04.27 in the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Classic. Even the incomparable finish between Zenyatta and Blame in the 2010 Classic saw a winning time of 2:02.28. Ron the Greek ran his Big Cap in 2:00.41 seconds, but he’s older … and male.

This makes that 2:01.29 time all the more impressive since it was a three-year-old filly who posted it. Enter Questing.

As the 2-1 second choice against an all-star Alabama field which included Zo Impressive, Grace Hall and In Lingerie, Questing set the pace going 22, 46, and 1:09 to win by eight lengths. Had Irad Ortiz been able to keep the filly in a straight line down the stretch she would’ve run this race in 2:00 flat.

“I was thinking [the pace] was too fast, but I liked the way she was doing it,” said winning trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. “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. I think she was ducking each way a little bit today, 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.”

“She was going fast, but she was so relaxed,” Ortiz said. “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.”

With a time like 2:01 and 1/5th, she’s not just the fastest three-year-old filly, she might be the fastest three-year-old horse. This makes Saturday’s Travers all the more interesting. Give the only horse to run a faster ten-furlong time than Questing is Ron the Greek, Questing’s options just got wider.

The Travers, on its surface, doesn’t have quite the pop. It’s basically a Grade 1 field of also-rans led by Alpha, the likely favorite. There’s no Derby or Preakness winner. No Haskell winner. No Belmont winner. Even the runner up in the Derby and Preakness is in racing purgatory now, somewhere between retirement and that-final-breeze-they-do-when-they-want-to-prove-he-can-run-then-inexplicably-retire.

Instead of Paynter we’re getting Liaison. Instead of Union Rags we’re getting Teeth of the Dog.

A troubled first turn in the Wood Memorial cost Alpha. He would have been the cat’s meow instead of Gemologist. With the best long gone, Alpha remains the best of the rest.

And wouldn’t that be quite the double? Not just McLaughlin pulling off Alabama-Travers ala Carl Nafzger with Street Sense, but Godolphin padding its resume with this wedding cake topper.

It could be that come Saturday night, the best three-year-old could be the one who raced the week before.

Written by Brendan O'Meara

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