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Tequilita Springs 14-1 Upset in $200,000 G2 Forward Gal

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Unraced in 11 weeks and facing the biggest test of her young career, Dorothy Matz’s homebred Tequilita took the lead in mid-stretch and stubbornly held off Grade 1 winner Pretty City Dancer to win Saturday’s $200,000 Forward Gal (G2) at Gulfstream Park.

The 37th running of the seven-furlong Forward Gal for 3-year-old fillies was the third of five stakes, four graded, worth $950,000 in purses topped by the $350,000 Lambholm South Holy Bull (G2), Gulfstream’s first major prep for the $1 million Florida Derby (G1).

Also on Saturday’s card were the $200,000 Swale (G2) for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs, and the $100,000 Sweetest Chant (G3) for sophomore fillies and $100,000 Kitten’s Joy for 3-year-olds, both at one mile on turf.

The Forward Gal marked the third straight victory and first against graded company for Tequilita ($31), winner of Laurel Park’s Smart Halo Stakes in her juvenile finale Nov. 19. Overlooked at odds of 14-1 in a field of nine, she ran the distance in 1:24.36 over a fast main track.

It was a special triumph for Michael Matz, who trains the bay filly for his wife and also trained Tequilita’s sire, 2012 Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Union Rags, and her mare, 2006 Chilukki (G2) winner Sangrita, also owned by his wife.

“It’s great. You know the family,” Michael Matz said. “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 furlongs and back to seven, [so] 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.”

Breaking from Post 2 under jockey Luis Saez, Tequilita settled in fourth while kept in the clear three wide as fellow Laurel stakes winner Ms Locust Point, the 6-5 favorite, ran the first quarter-mile in 22.53 seconds with Bode’s Dream and Wildcat Kate to her outside.

Tequilita began to pick up steam and was switched another path wider by Saez following a half-mile in 45.45 seconds with Pretty City Dancer, dead-heat winner of the Spinaway (G1) last summer also making her seasonal debut, also launching her bid. They straightened for home and closed in on a tiring Ms Locust Point approaching the eighth pole and Tequilita dug in through the final sixteenth to prevail by a half-length.

“[Matz] told me to break and be patient, and when you come to the stretch, just let her run. We had a good trip,” Saez said. “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.”

Tequilita ran five times as a 2-year-old, finishing second to subsequent Grade 1 winner Dancing Rags in a Laurel maiden race going one mile last September before graduating the next month at Keeneland. She idled a bit after assuming the lead in the six-furlong Smart Halo at the top of the stretch before going on to win by a length.

Pretty City Dancer was a clear second, 1 ¼ lengths ahead of 45-1 long shot Brahms Cat. It was another length back to Summer Luck in fourth followed by Ms Locust Point, Wildcat Kate, My Lerler, Lirica and Bode’s Dream.

“We watched the race before and I said to Luis, ‘You see the speed come back to you? That’s you,’ and that’s all I said,” Matz 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.”

$200,000 Forward Gal (G2) Quotes

Trainer Michael Matz (Tequilita): “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.”

Jockey Luis Saez (Tequilita): “[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.”

Source: Gulfstream Park

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