Helen Alexander Matz's Tequilita will enter Saturday's $150,000 Royal Delta (G3) at Gulfstream Park in winning form, coming off a sharp 2 ½-length triumph in the Rampart (G3) last time out.
The multiple graded stakes-winning homebred's Dec. 15 success at Gulfstream, achieved at the one-turn mile distance of the Royal Delta, was long overdue in the aftermath of an eight-race losing streak.
“We were happy to get her in the winner's circle after such a long time,” trainer Michael Matz said.
A daughter of 2012 Belmont Stakes champion Unions Rags and Grade 2-stakes winner Sangrita, Tequilita's career has truly been a family affair.
“We always liked her. It's always been a lot of fun. My wife bred her and I trained the father and the mother. You kind of see personalities from both sides,” Matz said. “I just thought Union Rags could run at longer distances and the way she trains that she would be able to handle the two turns. It looks like she just wants the one turn, and that's what she's sticking to from now on.”
Tequilita may well take after her mother more than her father. Sangrita broke her maiden by 12 ¾ lengths at a mile at Gulfstream Park in 2006 before going on to win the Chilukki Stakes (G2) over the one-turn mile distance at Churchill Downs.
Tequilita has done her best running at Gulfstream, where she also captured the seven-furlong Forward Gal (G2) before stretching out to finish second in the 1 1/16-mile Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) in 2017.
“I thought Tequilita could stretch out, and that's kind of what we did over the summer. It didn't work out the way I thought it would work out. It looks like she's better going seven-eighths to a one-turn mile,” Matz said. “She likes it down here in Florida. It looks like that's what she wants to do.”
Hall of Famer John Velazquez, who finished third aboard Tequilita in the mile Ruffian (G2) at Belmont last May, has the mount.
St. George Stable, LLC's Jala Jala will also bring a strong record at Gulfstream into the Royal Delta. The 5-year-old daughter of Point Determined has a 2-for-2 record at Gulfstream in her only two starts outside Mexico. Jala Jala beat the boys in the $300,000 Clasico del Caribe in 2017 and returned to Gulfstream to prevail over the boys again in the Confraternidad del Caribe in December.
Trained by Fausto Gutierrez, the Mexican-bred mare will make her graded-stakes debut in open company for the first time in a 23-race career that has produced 13 victories. Emisael Jaramillo has the mount.
Fitzhugh LLC's Another Broad is slated to make her first start for trainer Todd Pletcher in the Royal Delta. Transferred to the defending 13-time Championship Meet titlist at the end of 2018, the 4-year-old homebred filly most recently finished second, beaten by a neck, in the Geisha Stakes at Laurel Nov. 24 for trainer Michael Trombetta..
“She's been training well. This is her first start for us. We like how she's been doing. We'll see,” Pletcher said. “It seemed like a good distance for her. Hopefully, she can step it up.”
Another Broad graduated in her fourth career start in a $40,000 maiden claiming race at Laurel last September and went on to win her next two starts before narrowly missing in her stakes debut in the Geisha. Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano has the mount aboard the late-developing daughter of Include.
Cieber J. Massey's Blamed will seek to rebound from a fifth-place finish in the Hurricane Bertie (G3) June. 19. The 4-year-old daughter of Blame had won five races in a row in New Mexico before joining trainer Bill Mott, who saddled her for a second-place in the Raven Run (2) at Keeneland and a victory in the Comely (G3) at Aqueduct last fall.
Irad Ortiz Jr. is slated to ride Blamed for the first time Saturday.
Richlyn Farm's Silver Bay, a stakes winner at Tampa Bay Downs last time out; Arindel's Weekend Mischief, a two-time winner at a mile at Gulfstream last year; and Shagbark Farm, LLC's Tulsa Queen, a veteran stakes performer; round out the field.
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