02/04/2017 4:44PM

Tequilita gives Matz meaningful win in Forward Gal Stakes

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Barbara D. Livingston
Tequilita (No. 2), ridden by Luis Saez, wins the Forward Gal Stakes by half a length Saturday.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Tequilita rallied from off the pace before getting first run from Pretty City Dancer in posting a 14-1 upset Saturday in the 41st running of the Grade 2, $200,000 Forward Gal at Gulfstream Park.

Michael Matz trains Tequilita for his wife, Dorothy, who bred the bay filly in Kentucky. That aspect of the victory made it special for Matz, best known for his work with the great Barbaro, as did the fact that Tequilita was produced by the mating of Union Rags with Sangrita.

“I trained the mare and the stallion,” said Matz, “so yes, it’s a great thrill.”

Largely overlooked among a field of nine 3-year-old fillies in the seven-furlong race, Tequilita and jockey Luis Saez settled in a few lengths behind a swift pace set by Ms Locust Point, who was hammered down to 13-10 favoritism before speeding out to an open lead in fractions of 22.53 and 45.45 seconds.

Turning for home, Tequilita angled out with her winning drive as Pretty City Dancer, the 2-1 second choice under Julien Leparoux, gradually cut into her margin with an outside run, only to come up a half-length shy.

“Luis did a great job with her, keeping her busy once she made the lead,” said Matz. “She’s a fighter.”

Brahms Cat, a 45-1 shot, finished third, another 1 3/4 lengths back, and was followed by Summer Luck, Ms Locust Point, Wildcat Kate, My Lerler, Lirica, and Bode’s Dream.

Tequilita returned $31 after finishing in 1:24.36 over a fast track.

This was the third straight win for Tequilita, following a maiden race in her fourth career start at Keeneland in October and the ungraded Smart Halo at Laurel Park in November.

Matz said he hopes Tequilita can be equally successful when stretched out to longer distances, meaning the May 5 Kentucky Oaks is very much on her radar.

Dorothy Matz hails from an influential racing family, as her maternal grandfather, Robert Kleberg, operated the famed King Ranch, which produced 1946 Triple Crown winner Assault and other great Thoroughbreds.

For Pretty City Dancer, who had been unraced since dead-heating for the win in the Grade 1 Spinaway in early September, the overall effort was strong and should serve her well as she also continues toward the 1 1/8-mile Kentucky Oaks.

The $2 exacta (2-4) paid $120.60, the $1 trifecta (2-4-5) returned $591.60, and the 10-cent superfecta (2-4-5-8) was worth $349.08.