The Michael Matz-trained daughter of Union Rags became the latest member of her clan to do her conditioner proud when she struck the lead in midstretch and held off grade 1 winner Pretty City Dancer to take the seven-furlong Forward Gal by half a length, upsetting the nine-horse field at odds of 14-1.
In addition to training Tequilita on behalf of his wife, owner/breeder Dorothy Alexander Matz, Matz also conditioned 2012 Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Union Rags as well as her dam, grade 2 winner Sangrita.
"I trained the mare and trained the stallion so it's a great thrill," Matz said. "She's a lot like her mother. Like her mother, she likes something to run at something. I now when she gets the lead she can get lazy but (jockey) Luis (Saez) did a great job keeping her busy."
After breaking her maiden fourth time out at Keeneland last October, Tequilita concluded her 2-year-old campaign with a one-length win in the six-furlong Smart Halo Stakes at Laurel Park Nov. 19.
The bay filly was facing a salty-bunch of sophomore fillies for her seasonal bow, but handled the step up in company with aplomb.
Breaking from post No. 2, she settled comfortably in fourth as 6-5 favorite Ms Locust Point led the procession through fractions of :22.53 and :45.45 with stakes winners Bode's Dream and Wildcat Kate tracking second and third, respectively.
Once Saez signaled it was go time, Tequilita rolled up four-wide on the final turn past Wildcat Kate and took aim at a weakening Ms Locust Point only to be engaged by Spinaway Stakes (G1) winner Pretty City Dancer mounting her own outside rally. Saez kept his mount to take with some right-handed urging and had just enough to hit the wire in 1:24.36 over a fast track.
"I think she's still figuring out what she's supposed to do," Matz said. "For a while she was showing too much speed and now... if we want her to go longer we can get her to sit still and still make a nice run. To fight a grade 1 winner off like that, I'm impressed. We always thought she could go longer and I think she can."
Pretty City Dancer, who was making her first start since finishing in a dead heat with Sweet Loretta for the win in the Sept. 3 Spinaway, held for second with Brahms Cat, Summer Luck, and Ms Locust Point rounding out the top five.
Tequilita rewarded her backers by paying out $31.00, $13.20, and $7.40 across the board. She improved her career mark to three wins from six starts and $240,040 in earnings.
"I don't know yet (what's next)," Matz said. "We'll just try to look. Obviously we'd like her to go two turns. She's starting to relax more and more each race so we'll keep our fingers crossed."