Ginger Punch Favored in First Flight

The Stronach Stables entry of Sugar Swirl and Ginger Punch gives trainer Bobby Frankel a strong hand in the $150,000 First Flight Handicap (gr. II) for fillies and mares at seven furlongs Sunday at Belmont Park.

Ginger Punch is the horse to beat in the First Flight, which used to be run in the fall but has been repositioned on the stakes calendar because of the advent of the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint. The Awesome Again   filly was only beaten a neck by the speedy Take D’ Tour in last month’s Ogden Phipps Handicap (gr. I).

Ginger Punch will be cutting back three-sixteenths of a mile for the First Flight, but two of her most impressive races have been at Sunday's distance. Ginger Punch broke her maiden by 9 1/2 lengths at Churchill Downs going seven panels and then won a first-level allowance at Keeneland by 6 1/2 lengths at the same trip.

“She ran very well last time,” Frankel said of Ginger Punch’s effort in the Phipps. “We’ve always thought she had a lot of potential.”

Rafael Bejarano, who has ridden Ginger Punch in most of her starts, will be back aboard her Sunday. David Flores rode her in the Phipps.

In Sugar Swirl, Frankel has the lone speed in the First Flight. While not as classy as Ginger Punch, the daughter of 1997 Belmont Stakes winner Touch Gold should be in front by as much as jockey Garrett Gomez wishes.

Sugar Swirl comes off an overnight stakes victory in which she was all out to beat Veneti by a neck. She owns a victory at seven furlongs when she won an allowance race at Saratoga last summer.

“I don’t know if I’m going to run Sugar Swirl, too,” Frankel said. “I’ll check it out and handicap the race. Maybe I would run her, because that would ensure a good pace for Ginger Punch. I don’t want to give the race away if someone makes an easy lead.”

Kinsman Stable’s Sweet Fervor won the Shirley Jones Breeders’ Cup (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park going seven furlongs in March. She then returned to run uncharacteristically poor in the Humana Distaff (gr. I) at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby Day, but regained some confidence with a stakes tally in the West Long Branch at Monmouth last month.

Sweet Fervor has won five of eight career starts and three of five at the distance. The Seeking the Gold filly is trained by Bill Mott and will be ridden by Kent Desormeaux.

Jockey John Velazquez picked up the mount on Hobeau Farm’s Swap Fliparoo for the First Flight. After capturing last year’s Darley Test (gr. I) at Saratoga, Swap Fliparoo has only visited the winner’s circle once in eight starts. She comes off a sixth-place finish behind stablemate Teammate in Belmont's Shuvee (gr. II) May 19.

Trainer Chris Grove will send Silmaril from Maryland for the First Flight. The veteran of the group, 6-year-old Silmaril has $818,653 in career earning from 31 starts. She has been successful throughout the Mid Atlantic, but is winless in two tries shipping in to either Aqueduct or Belmont.

The First Flight is not the only stakes race on Sunday’s card.  Also featured is the $100,000-added Lexington for 3-year-olds at nine furlongs on the turf.

Centaur Farms’ Distorted Reality figures to be a heavy favorite in the Lexington after running second by 1 1/4 lengths in the Hill Prince (gr. IIIT) last month for trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey John Velazquez.

$150,000 First Flight Handicap (gr. II, Race 8, 4:45 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 3 & Up, 7 Furlongs
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Swap Fliparoo (FL), 115, John R. Velazquez
2. Sweet Fervor (KY), 116, Kent J. Desormeaux
3. Nothing But Fun (KY), 115, Cornelio H. Velasquez
4. a-Sugar Swirl (ON), 115, Garrett K. Gomez
5. a-Ginger Punch (FL), 117, Rafael Bejarano
6. Silmaril (MD), 115, Eibar Coa
a-Stronach Stables entry.

Most Popular Stories