QUEENS, NY—Florida-bred Halina’s Forte and Sumaya U.S. Stable’s Ghalia Princess are set to face each other in Saturday’s $100,000 Ruthless, a seven-furlong sprint for sophomore fillies at Aqueduct Racetrack.

Rigney Racing’s Halina’s Forte comes into the Ruthless after runner-up efforts in the $215,000 Fern Creek on Nov. 20 at Churchill Downs and in the $98,000 Letellier Memorial last out on Dec. 23 at Fair Grounds.

The $250,000 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Select Yearling Sale purchase graduated gate-to-wire in her Nov. 5 debut sprinting five-and-a-half furlongs at Churchill, just 20 days before missing by three-quarters of a length to graded stakes-placed Youalmosthadme in the Fern Creek.

Last out, the Phil Bauer-trainee stalked from third-position in the six-furlong Letellier Memorial but could not reel in a runaway Leslie’s Loot, who prevailed by nearly four lengths.

“I may have made a mistake running her back so quick after her big effort at Churchill when we went her to Fair Grounds,” Bauer said. “She was maybe a little dull that day, but she’s a very nice filly in her own right and we’re excited to try her at seven-eighths and march forward from there.”

The Mitole bay is out of the stakes-winning Yes It’s True mare Lunarlady, who is a half-sister to both multiple graded stakes-winner Lunarpal and graded stakes-winner Astrology. She was bred in Florida by Bill and Corinne Heilegbrodt and Francis and Barbara Vanlangendonck.

The Vanlangendonck’s sold Halina’s Forte for $130,000 out of their Summerfield consignment at the 2022 Ocala Breeders’ Sales Winter Mixed Sale.

“She’s shown a lot of class from Day One. We considered pinhooking her, but the recommendation was to hang on to her,” Bauer said. “She came in and marched forward. We were always high on her. We maybe questioned a little bit at age two how she would go on as a 3-year-old, but she’s blossomed and put some more height to her. We’re excited to get her back going.”

Bauer said jockey Eric Cancel will have the benefit of a versatile horse as he looks to work out a trip from post four.

“She possesses speed but she’ll rate and do what you need her to do,” Bauer said. “She’s shown good gate speed in all her starts, so that’s definitely an attribute that keeps you out of trouble. He can see how things develop after the first furlong and go from there.

“She shipped up yesterday and all reports are good so far,” Bauer added. “We’re hopeful she’ll have a good showing on Saturday.”

Trained by Brad Cox, Ghalia Princess posted a narrow head score to graduate on debut in a six-furlong maiden special weight on Jan. 20 at Fair Grounds.

“She showed us a good bit in the mornings and we liked her first time out,” Cox said. “She pulled through and just based off of timing and what she’s done since her maiden-breaking win, I feel she’s ready to make this jump. She’ll need to improve but it’s an opportunity for some black type. She’s a good-looking filly and hopefully has a big future.”

Ghalia Princess, although cross-entered in Saturday’s six-furlong $150,000 Dixie Belle at Oaklawn Park, is confirmed to race in the Ruthless.

Bred in Kentucky by International Equities Holding, Ghalia Princess is out of the stakes-winning Medaglia d’Oro mare Ghalia, who captured the 2017 Sunland Park Oaks. Her second dam is graded stakes-winner Verdana Bold.

Cox said the well-bred bay has a right to improve with racing.

“She has good size, powerful, a great mover and covers a lot of ground,” Cox said. “She’s easy on herself. She’s been very good in the morning and was able to show she could do it in the afternoon first time out.”

Manny Franco picks up the mount from the inside post.

Others set for the Ruthless are Reconcile with jockey Jose Lezcano, Riarella and rider Trevor McCarthy, Dylan Davis rides Low Society, Most of All with Jorge Vargas Jr. up and Kendrick Carmouche is named to ride Value Area.

Return to the Feb. 15 issue of Wire to Wire