A field of six led by co-high weights Teammate and Take D’ Tour will go postward Saturday for Belmont Park’s 39th running of the $300,000 Ogden Phipps Handicap (gr. I), but lightweight Ginger Punch may kick in with some extra clout of her own.
Trained by Robert Frankel for Stronach Stables, Ginger Punch has never finished worse than second in eight career starts. Her last victory came in May 5 allowance race at Churchill Downs, when she finished the mile ahead of five other starters by 2 ¾-lengths. The 4-year-old daughter of Awesome Again finished second in her only start in graded company this year with a near-miss in Keeneland’s April 11 Vinery Madison Stakes (gr. II).
But the chestnut filly will face tough competition from Joseph Allen’s Teammate, who attempts to extend her winning streak to three as she enters the mile and a sixteenth test with back-to-back victories in Belmont’s May 19 Shuvee Handicap (gr. II) and a May 3 allowance optional claimer. The 4-year-old daughter of leading sire A.P. Indy is now moving back up in company under the care of Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkens, who conditioned the filly to become one of New York’s top female three-year-olds in 2006 with runner-up finishes in the Alabama (gr. I) and Gazelle (gr. I) Stakes. Teammate’s current record stands at four wins from 16 career starts. But five second-place finishes have boosted her career earnings to $495,276 under the care of Jerkens, who looks for his fourth career win in this race.
Teammate shares the top weight of 118 pounds with Alice Muller’s 6-year-old Take D’ Tour, who has not raced since finishing second in the April 7 Apple Blossom Handicap (gr. I) at Oaklawn Park. The chestnut daughter of Tour d’Or smoked through last year’s renewal of the Ogden Phipps to win by a definitive 5 ½-lengths, earning a Beyer speed figure of 105. She will attempt to become just the third horse to win consecutive editions of the Phipps; only Heatherten (1984-’85) and Sightseek (2003-’04) have accomplished the feat.
Take D’ Tour has been second in both starts this season. Trainer David Fawkes will give a leg up to regular rider Eibar Coa, who has been aboard for the most recent five of the mare’s 23 career starts. Her current record stands at nine wins with purse earnings of $852,740.
“I was very pleased with her race in Hot Springs,” Fawkes said. “We gave her a break after the Apple Blossom with this race in mind and everything has worked out perfectly to this point."
Not to be overlooked in the field is Eddie Kenneally trainee Bushfire, who bested Teammate with victories in last year’s Mother Goose and Acorn at Belmont, in addition to scoring victories in the Ashland (gr. I) at Keeneland and the Florida Oaks at Tampa Bay Downs. The 4-year-old daughter of Louis Quatorze has yet to find her racing stride this year - she was sixth in her only start of the season, Churchill’s May 5 Humana Distaff Stakes (gr. I) - but Kenneally says he expects the filly to step up to the plate.
“She’s doing really well,” he said. “She arrived at Belmont on Monday afternoon and she’s trained there all week and it was a good week for her. I’m expecting a good effort. She’s a fresh filly and she likes Belmont. There’s a combination of things. The timing of this race works perfectly.”
Teammate’s stablemate Miss Shop and Larry Murray trainee Promenade Girl make up the field.
Ogden Phipps Handicap (gr. I, Race 8, approximate post 4:45 p.m.), $300,000 for fillies and mares 3-years-old and upward on the dirt
1. Ginger Punch, David Flores, 114
2. Bushfire, Corey Lanerie, 116
3. Teammate, Cornelio Velasquez, 118
4. Take D' Tour, Eibar Coa, 118
5. Miss Shop, Raul Rojas, 116
6. Promenade Girl, Michael Luzzi, 116