Halina’s Forte Secures First Stakes Win in Ruthless

February 17, 2024

Halina’s Forte much the best in the Ruthless (Chelsea Durand)

By Keith McCalmont – NYRA Press Office

OZONE PARK, N.Y.— Rigney Racing’s Halina’s Forte stalked and pounced to an impressive first stakes score in Saturday’s $100,000 Ruthless, a seven-furlong sprint for sophomore fillies, at Aqueduct Racetrack.

Trained by Philip Bauer and expertly piloted by Eric Cancel, the Mitole bay broke best of all but settled to track from fourth position before rallying wide through the turn and gamely overtake the Brad Cox-trained Ghalia Princess en route to a 1 3/4-length win.

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

Ghalia Princess, with Manny Franco up from the inside post, dueled for the early lead with Reconcile through splits of 23.10 seconds and 46.94 over the good main track with the maiden Tiarella tracking in third position.

Ghalia Princess led the field into the turn under pressure from Reconcile as Halina’s Forte launched her rally outside rivals and loomed large as the field straightened away. Halina’s Forte, full of run, collared the pacesetter with a furlong to run and easily secured the win in a final time of 1:26.26. Ghalia Princess completed the exacta by 2 1/2-lengths over the late running Value Area, who broke inward from the outermost post 7 and bumped Most of All into the path of fourth-place Low Society. Reconcile, Tiarella and Most of All completed the order of finish.

“She broke very well. I wasn’t scared of what position I could get with her. I just wanted to have a clean trip – I didn’t have any trouble with her,” Cancel said. “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,” Cancel added. “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.”

Halina’s Forte, a $250,000 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Select Yearling Sale purchase, made every pole a winning one in her November 5 debut sprinting 5 1/2-furlongs at Churchill Downs, just 20 days before a narrow runner-up effort to graded stakes-placed Youalmosthadme in the Fern Creek at the Louisville oval. She returned one month later to land second in the Letellier Memorial at Fair Grounds where she was 3 3/4-lengths back of the speedy Leslie’s Loot.

Halina’s Forte after her victory (Susie Raisher)

Bauer said Halina’s Forte benefitted from more time between starts to secure her first stakes win.

“It 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.”

Bauer said Halina’s Forte will ship home to Kentucky tomorrow evening where he will wait to see how she bounces out of this event before selecting a target.

“It will be something in Kentucky,” Bauer said. “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.”

Halina’s Forte 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.

Franco said Ghalia Princess, an impressive maiden winner in January at Fair Grounds, performed admirably in defeat.

“She broke good and took me from there,” Franco said. “She was comfortable. I think I was second best today.”

Bred in Florida by Bill and Corinne Heilegbrodt and A.F. & B. Vanlangendonck, Halina’s Forte banked $55,000 in victory while improving her record to 4-2-2-0. She returned $6.20 for a $2 win bet.

Live racing resumes Sunday at Aqueduct with a nine-race card featuring the $100,000 Maddie May in Race 8. First post is 12:50 p.m. Eastern. 

Louis & @ItsMeGinoB talk next w/@jonathanstettin about today’s races & the amazing Ruffian piece he wrote this week. twitter.com/PastTheWire/st…

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