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2012 Alabama Stakes

Questing gets a pat from Irad Ortiz Jr. after winning the Alabama Stakes.
Date: 08/18/2012

One of the oldest stakes races at Saratoga is the $600,000 Alabama Stakes (G1), featuring the best 3-year-old fillies of the northeast going 1 1/4 miles over the main track. The 34,408 fans in attendance enjoyed sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-70's at the historic oval. Grace Hall was sent off as the 11-10 favorite in the field of 7, winner of the Delaware Oaks (G2) after finishing third in the Kentucky Oaks (G1). In to challenge her included 2-1 second choice Questing, off her win in the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1), and 6-1 third choice In Lingerie, third in the Coaching Club after winning the Black-Eyed Susan (G2).

Questing leads first time by.

Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. sent Questing to a clear lead first time past the stands and she set fast fractions of 22.84, 46.01, and 1:09.74 while as many as 2 lengths in front of Grace Hall and 8-1 Zo Impressive who stalked her second and third. Entering the stretch, Questing began to extend her lead, opening up by 3 lengths through 1 mile in 1:35.06 as Grace Hall and Zo Impressive tired and dropped back. Questing swerved out during the stretch run but was drawing away, winning by 9 lengths over In Lingerie in 2:01.29 over the fast track. It was another 8 lengths back to 12-1 Via Villaggio third, while favorite Grace Hall checked in fifth.

Pgm  Horse              Jockey         Win   Place  Show
 6   Questing           Ortiz         6.40    4.40  3.50
 7   In Lingerie        Velazquez             5.60  4.00
 5   Via Villaggio      Nakatani                    5.70

Winning Time:  2:01.29

$2 Exacta 6-7                45.20
$2 Trifecta 6-7-5           320.50
$2 Superfecta 6-7-5-2       916.00
Results Chart

Left: Questing in the winner's circle with trainer Kiaran McLaughlin on the far left. McLaughlin said, "I was thinking the pace was too fast, but I liked the way she was doing it. 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."

Right: Questing heads back to the barn.

Left: Questing in the paddock before the race. Her jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. said, "She was going fast, but she was so relaxed. 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."

Right: Questing heads out for the post parade. Kiaran McLaughlin added, "She's a special filly. I'm glad we have her on dirt here in North America and that we tried her on it. She could have won today going 1 1/2."

Left: Second place finisher In Lingerie returns after the race. Trainer Todd Pletcher said, "In these situations, you finish second and tip your hat to the winner. There's nothing else we could have done. We got exactly the trip we wanted. The fractions were obviously plenty stout enough. The other filly was too good today. We were second best." Jockey John Velazquez added, "Going that fast I thought Questing would have come back to me a little bit and maybe make it an interesting race, but that wasn't the case. She kept running. Going to the 1/2 mile pole I was saying 'I think I got it, we're going fast enough.' Psshh. I moved up a little bit, and the winner took off."

Right: Third place finisher Via Villaggio heads out for the post parade. The 12-1 shot settled in fifth early under jockey Corey Nakatani about 7 lengths back, then passed tiring horses late to gain third beaten 17 lengths. The Jerry Hollendorfer trainee improved her record to 3 wins, 4 seconds, and 4 thirds in 13 starts, earning $279,070 for owner Steve Beneto.

Left: Fifth place finisher and beaten favorite Grace Hall crosses the finish line. Jockey Javier Castellano said, "She was moving comfortably enough for most of the race. Unfortunately, today was not her day. She didn't fire at all."

Point of Entry leads in the stretch down the middle of the track.
Immediately before the Alabama Stakes was the $600,000 Sword Dancer Invitational (G1), the top turf race of the meet and a major prep for the Breeders' Cup Turf. A field of 9 older horses went to post on Saturday in this 1 1/2 mile inner turf event, with Point of Entry sent off as the 7-5 favorite off a three-race win streak including the Elkhorn (G2) and the Man O'War (G1). In to challenge him included 5-2 second choice Turbo Compressor, winner of the United Nations (G1) last out, and 11-2 third choice Brilliant Speed, winless since the Saranac (G3) last September and 6th in the United Nations.

Jockey Joe Bravo sent Turbo Compressor to the lead and he set easy fractions of 24.89, 49.45, 1:13.77, and 1:37.90 over the firm course, while pressed by 18-1 Center Divider and favorite Point of Entry. Turbo Compressor continued to lead into the homestretch, getting 1 1/4 miles in 2:02.13, but he tired badly at the 3/16 pole to eventually finish last. Point of Entry inherited the lead and drew off to win by 4 lengths over late-running 7-1 Al Khali in 2:26.40. It was another 2 1/2 lengths back to Brilliant Speed third.

Pgm  Horse              Jockey         Win   Place  Show
 2   Point of Entry     Velazquez     4.80    2.90  2.30
 1   Al Khali           Alvarado              5.70  3.90
 8   Brilliant Speed    Castellano                  3.70

Winning Time:  2:26.40

$2 Exacta 2-1                29.80
$2 Trifecta 2-1-8           124.00
$2 Superfecta 2-1-8-4       638.00
Results Chart

Left: Point of Entry in the winner's circle with trainer Shug McGaughey on the far left. McGaughey said, "Johnny said a horse about fell and he had to go back to the inside. When he found the seam at the 1/4 pole, it was over. I was very pleased with the trip. I told him if the pace is fast, you'll know where you'll be, and if it's slow, he'll take you where he wants to go."

Right: Point of Entry heads into the winner's circle. His owner Ogden Mills Phipps said, "This is a great day for me and I'm enjoying every minute of it."

Left: Point of Entry in the paddock before the race. His jockey John Velazquez said, "I was keeping him behind horses. I wanted him to be covered up. He was really strong the whole way. By the 1/2 mile pole I pointed him outside, and the horse who was laying third took a bad step, so I had to go back inside with him. But, I didn't want to make a move before the quarter-pole anyway, so it worked out. He was ready to go any time I let him go. Incredible."

Right: Point of Entry heads out for the post parade.

Left: Second place finisher Al Khali returns after the race. His trainer Bill Mott said, "Big Al ran well. The winner, you have to give him credit. He pulled away from us and ran a big race." Jockey Junior Alvarado added, "I had a really good trip, stayed on the rail pretty much the whole time. Turning for home, I had a shot to follow (Point of Entry) and could have gone through, but second best. I had a clear trip, and he really ran pretty good because he really tried hard at the end."

Right: Third place finisher Brilliant Speed heads out for the post parade. The 11-2 third choice raced in fourth early, 3 lengths off the pace under jockey Javier Castellano, but could not gain late finishing third beaten 6 1/2 lengths. The Tom Albertrani trainee improved his record to 3 wins, 3 seconds, and 6 thirds in 19 starts, earning $1,183,531 for owner-breeder Live Oak Plantation.

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