After finishing second in her last two starts against stakes competition, Florida-bred Halina’s Forte broke through with a convincing length-and-three-quarters score in the $100,000 Ruthless against six other 3-year-old fillies going seven furlongs at Aqueduct Saturday.

Trained by Philip Bauer for Rigney Racing LLC, Halina’s Forte had previously finished second to Youalmosthadme in the $215,000 Fern Creek at Churchill Downs on Nov. 25 and second to Leslie’s Loot in the $98,000 Letellier Memorial at Fair Grounds on Dec. 23.

“[Extra time between races] never hurts them. Hindsight is such a big player in this game when you can look back and realize what you probably did wrong,” Bauer said. “When they run such hard efforts, you have to give them ample time. We made sure we did it this time and I think it was a good enough cast to recognize she has plenty of quality. I’m excited about her moving forward.”

Sent to the post as the slight 2-1 favorite in the Ruthless, Halina’s Forte and jockey Eric Cancel broke best of all from post four but were quickly passed by 3-1 shot Reconcile to her inside and 2-1 second choice Ghalia’s Princess on the rail leaving the backstretch chute. Cancel took Halina’s Forte back to fourth, four lengths behind the frontrunning pair of Ghalia’s Princess and Reconcile through the first two furlongs in :23.10 before taking a four-wide trip into the far turn.

“I told Eric [Cancel] this morning, ‘she has such great gate speed, don’t let her fool you into thinking you have to get hooked into something,’” Bauer said. “He played it well and let the speed develop.”

Ghalia’s Princess shook off Reconcile for a length lead through the half-mile in :46.94 and had a clear advantage turning for home as Halina’s Forte began to find her best stride on the far outside.

Ghalia’s Princess held the lead until the final sixteenth of a mile when Halina’s Forte shot to the front to win going away in 1:26.26 on the main track labeled good. Ghalia’s Princess was second, two-and-a-half lengths in front of Value Area in third. They were followed, in order, by Low Society, Reconcile, Tiarella and Most of All.

Halina’s Forte paid $6.20 to win.

“[Halina’s Forte] broke very well. I wasn’t scared of what position I could get with her,” Cancel said. “I just wanted to have a clean trip. I didn’t have any trouble with her. I just kept in the clear and once I started asking her, she just started picking it up.

“Once I started asking her to check and see how much she had, she responded every single time I asked her. I wasn’t really scared about it and I was just like, ‘You better have a lot of horse, because I feel like I’ve got a lot.’ She did the job and I’m really happy with it.”

“I think the seven-eighths was good for her to get into a rhythm and punch home,” Bauer added. “It looks like [the Brad Cox-trained Ghalia’s Princess] is a really nice filly in her own right in her second start and I’m excited where we’re headed from here.

“It will be something in Kentucky. Whether it’s Keeneland or Churchill, we’ll take her back home and talk to Mr. Rigney and see what direction we want to go. Her pedigree is interesting. How far can she go? Maybe we’ll have to ask that question.”

It was the second career win for Halina’s Forte, who defeated special weight maiden fillies by four-and-a-half lengths going five-and-a-half furlongs at Churchill Downs in her first start on Nov. 5.

The first-place check of $55,000 increased her career revenues to $149,900 in her four races.

Halina’s Forte is by Mitole out of the stakes-winning Yes It’s True mare Lunarlady and was bred in Florida by Bill and Corinne Heiligbrodt of Houston and Francis and Barbara Vanlangendonck of Morriston, Fla. The bay filly is a graduate of the earning training program at Eddie Woods Stable in Ocala.

The Vanlangendonck’s sold Halina’s Forte out of their Summerfield consignment at the 2022 Ocala Breeders’ Sales Winter Mixed Sale where Woodford Thoroughbreds purchased her for $130,000. Woodford then consigned her at the 2023 Fasig-Tipton Select Yearling Sale in July where Chenowith Run Stables put in the final bid of $250,000 to purchase her.

Lunarlady has four winners from six starters and 10 foals with Halina’s Forte becoming her first back-type winner.

Return to the Feb. 17 issue of Wire to Wire