Tequilita earned her place on the Kentucky Oaks Leaderboard Saturday when turning back a game challenge from Grade 1 heroine Pretty City Dancer to take the $200,000 Forward Gal Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream Park

The Dorothy Alexander Matz homebred was sent off at 14-1 in the seven-furlong affair but earned her third straight victory when holding Pretty City Dancer by a half-length on the wire. Both fillies ran in midpack as 6-5 favorite Ms Locust Point led the way through early splits of :22.53 and :45.45.

Tequilita rallied four wide on the turn, with Pretty City Dancer following right along, to take over entering the stretch. She rebuffed all threats for the half-length score in a final time of 1:24.36 on the fast dirt.

For her win, the Michael Matz-trained Tequilita earned 10 points toward a starting berth in the May 5 Kentucky Oaks (G1) at Churchill Downs. Pretty City Dancer also made her debut on the Leaderboard with four points. Brahms Cat took home two points for finishing another 1 1/4 lengths back in third and Summer Luck rounded out the top four in the Forward Gal, good for one point.

Tequilita took four tries to break her maiden, getting the job done on October 22 at Keeneland, and then added the Smart Halo Stakes to her resume at Laurel Park last out on November 19. The Forward Gal win improved her record to 6-3-2-0 and boosted her career earnings to $240,040.

Bred in Kentucky, Tequilita is out of Grade 2 winner Sangrita, who is a half-sister to Grade 1-scoring sire Offlee Wild.

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."