Dorothy Alexander Matz’s homebred Tequilita entered Saturday’s $200,000 Forward Gal Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream Park having never faced graded rivals before. The bay daughter of Union Rags exited the seven-furlong affair a Grade 2 winner and bearer of 10 points toward a starting berth in the May 5 Kentucky Oaks (G1) at Churchill Downs.
The Forward Gal is part of the Road to the Kentucyk Oaks series of points races and awarded 10-4-2-1 points to the top four finishers on Saturday.
Tequilita earned the most of those points and her third straight victory in this spot. With Luis Saez aboard for trainer Michael Matz, the sophomore lass settled in midpack as 6-5 favorite Ms Locust Point set the opening half-mile splits of :22.53 and :45.45. Wildcat Kate and Bode’s Dream were tracking just behind the leader.
Tequilita angled out four wide rounding the turn and easily grabbed command of the race from Ms Locust Point. However, she found a challenger in 5-2 second choice Pretty City Dancer, who also rallied after running in midpack down the backstretch. Despite a game effort, Pretty City Dancer just could not get past the winner, who stopped the clock in 1:24.36 over the fast main track.
Sent off the 14-1 sixth pick in the nine-filly field, Tequilita paid $31 for the win. Pretty City Dancer was a half-length back in second while Brahms Cat followed in third by another 1 1/4 lengths. Summer Luck got up to take fourth and next under the wire were Ms Locust Point, Wildcat Kate, My Lerler, Lirica and Bode’s Dream.
Tequilita brought a two-race win streak into the Forward Gal that started in her fourth career race. After running seventh in her debut at Laurel Park last July, the Kentucky-bred filly found herself second in a pair of maidens back at that Maryland venue and Saratoga. She finally got her initial score at Keeneland on October 22 and added the Smart Halo Stakes to her resume one month later at Laurel.
Now boasting a 3-2-0 mark from six career starts, Tequilita doubled her lifetime earnings to $240,040.
The sophomore lass is the first registered stakes winner out of the Grade 2-scoring Mr. Greeley mare Sangrita, who is a half-sister to Grade 1 hero and successful sire Offlee Wild. Tequilita’s third dam is Grade 1 queen Andover Way, who produced leading sire Dynaformer.
FORWARD GAL QUOTES
Michael Matz, trainer Tequilita, winner
“I watched the race before and I said to Luis, ‘You see the speed came back to you? That’s you.’ And that’s all I said. He kept busy on her and she fought those other horses off. To fight a Grade 1 winner off like that, I’m impressed. We always thought she could go longer and I think she can.
“She’s worked real well. She’s done everything we’ve asked her to do. She’s got a good disposition. She’s just a nice filly.
“It’s great. You know the family and we’ve sort of figured out her running style and where she wants to break. For a while she was showing too much speed and now I think we went from a mile to six and back to seven, if we want her to go longer we can get her to sit still and still make a nice run. I think she’s still figuring out what she’s supposed to do.
“I don’t know yet (what’s next). We’ll just try to look. Obviously we’d like her to go two turns. We’ll see if we can stretch her out a little bit longer. She’s starting to relax more and more each race so we’ll keep our fingers crossed.”
Luis Saez, jockey Tequilita, winner
“(Trainer Michael Matz) told me to break and be patient, and when you come to the stretch, just let him run. We had a good trip. When we came to the three-eighths pole, I had a lot of horse. We came into the stretch and, man, I see the other horse coming, and I never give up, I just keep riding.”