At just under five feet tall and weighing about 110 pounds, Khrystina Bixa was small. She was also tough, and determined to make life better for herself and her two young children

Long hours of rubbing horses had given Khrystina a chance to think about the direction in which she was heading and she decided she would make things right. She even talked of buying a house.

But just as she was ready to embark on her noble journey, Khrystina’s life ended. Police said that 23-year-old Khrystina was shot and killed by her boyfriend of two months, 43-year-old Raymond Zegowitz, who then ended his own life. Khrystina’s children, Christian, 3, and David, 20 months, were upstairs at the time and were unharmed.

The murder/suicide last June was upsetting to all who knew Khrystina, especially those who worked with her at trainer Lester Stickler Jr.’s stable at nearby Penn National Race Course.

“She was just getting her life straightened out,” Stickler said. “Unfortunately, she met up with the wrong person. It was all very sad.”

In his barn, Stickler had a two-year-old, Kentucky-bred Newfoundland filly for owner Robert Oliva’s 135-partner Rempher Stable. Oliva decided to name her Our Khrysty.

Saturday afternoon, Our Khrysty will make her Aqueduct debut when she goes to post in the 38th running of the $65,000-added Busanda for three-year-old fillies at a mile and seventy yards on the inner dirt track.

Having won three of four starts, Our Khrysty is certain to draw the attention of handicappers doping out the Busanda. All of those starts, however, have come in Pennsylvania and, in the Busanda, Our Khrysty will not only have to transfer her form to New York, but will have to do it against eight others in her first try around two turns.

And, while carrying highweight of 120 pounds, she will have to get the job done from the outside post.

All of which should, by race end, give Stickler a pretty fair evaluation of where his filly stands.

“We named her right after Khrysty was killed,” Stickler said. “We were all in shock over her death and it affected all of us. This was one way of showing our respect, and we feel, keeping her spirit alive.

“This filly is tough, just like Khrysty. She has a great stride and she acts like she wants to go longer. We’ve been training her, and it’s hard to even get her tired. This race came up, and we felt it would be a good way to start her three-year-old year.”

Our Khrysty has won on the lead and from off the pace and her only loss came after a wide trip on the synthetic surface at Presque Isle Downs. The 36-year-old Stickler, a New Jersey native who started out as a farrier and still shoes his own horses, will ship up with the filly from Penn National on race day.

“We’ve raced at Finger Lakes before, but this will be my first time racing at Aqueduct,” said Stickler, who has not raced at Belmont Park or Saratoga, either.

Jockey Thomas Clifton has the mount.

West Point Thoroughbreds Fitz Just Right is undefeated in two starts for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, who sent out favored Justwhistledixie here last Sunday to win the Ruthless Stakes for three-year-old fillies at six furlongs. Fitz Just Right defeated another Busanda rival, Missunitednations, at Philadelphia Park at a mile on November 12.

Alan Brodsky’s Don’t Forget Gil has won two of three starts, including the East View against fellow New York-breds on December 7. Named for longtime New York Racing Association clubhouse box seats usher Gil Parrucci, Don’t Forget Gil’s East View victory was at a mile and 70 yards.

December Hill Farm’s Pumpkin Shell broke her maiden in her fifth career start here on December 4 when she was a one-length victory at a mile and a sixteenth on the inner track. Trained by David Donk, the Lion Heart filly will be ridden by C. C. Lopez.

Trainer Seth Benzel has opted to put blinkers on Southern Charmer, who was beaten a neck at the Busanda distance on December 12 by Missunitednations.

The field for Saturday’s Busanda:

1. Southern Charmer Seth Benzel Ariel Smith 116
2. Pumpkin Shell David Donk C.C. Lopez 116
3. Miss Dartmouth Richard Violette Jr. Richard Migliore 116
4. Chocolate Pop Gary Contessa Rajiv Maragh 116
5. Don’t Forget Gil Mark Hennig Pablo Fragoso 118
6. Flashing Tom Albertrani Ramon Dominguez 116
7. Fitz Just Right Kiaran McLaughlin Mike Luzzi 118
8. Missunitednations Robert Reid Jr. Rosie Napravnik 118
9. Our Khrysty Lester Stickler Jr. Thomas Clifton 120

Southern Charmer will race with blinkers.