by Karen M. Johnson
Ginger Punch continued to show her dominance as a leader of her division with her gritty win in the Ruffian Handicap (gr. I) against fillies and mares at Belmont Park Sept. 8.
Ridden by Rafael Bejarano, Ginger Punch won the 1 1/16-mile Ruffian by three-quarters of a length over Miss Shop. It was a half-length back to Teammate in third. Take d’Tour finished fourth, 1 1/4 lengths behind Teammate.
Ginger Punch, the favorite, returned $3.50. She covered the distance in 1:40 1/5 over a fast track. The final time equaled the stakes record, which Riboletta first set in 2000. (The race was hand-timed from the start, according to NYRA officials, because a photographer was blocking the beam that would have triggered the teletimer. )
The Ruffian winner pressed the pace set by Take d’Tour through fractions of :23 1/5 for the opening quarter and :45 4/5 for the half-mile. After six furlongs in 1:10, Ginger Punch was within a head of a tiring Take d’Tour. With a furlong remaining, Ginger Punch held a half-length advantage and was able to withstand a late surge from Miss Shop.
Ginger Punch, a daughter of Awesome Again, out of the Bold Revenue mare Nappelon, is owned by her breeder, Stronach Stables. Her record is 6-5-0 from 12 starts, with earnings of $621,279.
The Ruffian was Ginger Punch’s third consecutive stakes win. She won the July 8 First Flight Handicap (g. II) at Belmont and the July 28 Go for Wand (gr. I) at Saratoga.
Earlier this year, Ginger Punch underwent laser surgery to remove growths from her throat that were compromising her breathing, according to her trainer, Bobby Frankel.
“We tried to give her time to have it go away naturally, but it wouldn’t, so we had to laser them,” Frankel said.
It was Frankel’s third win in the Ruffian. He also won with Wild Spirit in 2003 and Sightseek in 2004.
Ginger Punch is not nominated to the Breeders’ Cup World Championships Oct. 26-27 at Monmouth Park and would have to be supplemented at a cost of $180,000 to run in the $2-million Distaff on Oct. 27. Frankel was noncommittal about Ginger Punch being supplemented but left the door open for Ginger Punch to run next in the Sept. 30 Beldame (gr. I).
David Fawkes, trainer of Take d’Tour, the second choice, said, “She just ran flat today.” Fawkes did not rule out supplementing Take d’Tour to the Breeders’ Cup, saying, “I’ll talk to the owner.”