Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin stood
overlooking the training track at the Greentree Training Center on a picture-perfect
Sunday morning, marveling at the emergence of Godolphin Racing Stable’s Questing.
A day after the daughter of Hard Spun captured the Grade 1 TVG Coaching
Club American Oaks for 3-year-old fillies by 4 ¼ lengths, McLaughlin recalled
the decision to move her to the dirt after she opened the year with two
straight dull turf starts. On June 24, in her first start on the main track at
Belmont Park, she came home a 3 ¾-length winner in a one-mile optional claimer
and earned a 105 Beyer Speed Figure in the process.
“This filly’s story is incredible,” said McLaughlin,
who will point Questing to the Grade 1, $600,000 Alabama at 1 ¼ miles on August 18 at the Spa.
“What if she doesn’t handle the dirt? Then the allowance race and whoosh! Then we said, ‘Let’s
look at this Grade 1.’ We didn’t even expect to win the allowance
race. Now we go in with confidence.”
In her allowance victory, Questing led every step, but in the 96th
running of the Coaching Club, Questing allowed long shot Yara to race to a 3 ½-length
advantage through the opening quarter-mile. Inside the five-eighths pole,
jockey Irad Ortiz moved Questing to the leader but did not rouse her until the
quarter pole. Questing shied away from left-handed whipping and ran out to the
center of the track, but she was well clear.
“She looked great this morning and is happy,” McLaughlin
said. “Obviously, we’ll look at the Alabama. It’s in four weeks. I wish it
was a little more time, but if she’s doing this well …”
McLaughlin pointed out with pride that Ortiz joined Rajiv Maragh, Alan
Garcia and Fernando Jara as jockeys who earned their first career Grade 1
victories riding for him.
It’s Tricky, winner
last out of the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps Handicap on May 28 at Belmont Park,
had an easy gallop Sunday at Greentree.
McLaughlin bypassed Saturday’s Delaware Handicap, opting to point
to either the seven-furlong Grade 1, $500,000 Ballerina on August 24 or the 1
1/8-mile Grade 1, $600,000 Personal Ensign on August 26.
“She’s undefeated at one turn, and she’s kind of
gotten speedier this year,” McLaughlin said of the 4-year-old It’s
Tricky, who likely will have four works, spaced a week apart, leading up to her
It’s Tricky won the Coaching Club last year for Darley, and
McLaughlin clearly got a kick out of the back-to-back scores in such a
“They won’t have to paint the statue again,” he said,
laughing, referring to the iconic jockey statues, painted in the colors of the
previous year’s stakes winners, that surround the fountain at the track