Now that Rags to Riches will not be running in the $300,000 Ruffian Handicap (gr. I) Sept. 8, the outlook of 1 1/16-mile test for fillies and mares has decidedly changed.
Ginger Punch is now the filly to beat.
A 4-year-old daughter of Awesome Again -Nappelon, Ginger Punch has won two graded stakes in a row, both in convincing fashion. Overall, she has won three of four, her only loss coming by a neck to Take D’ Tour in the Ogden Phipps Handicap (gr. I) June 16 at Belmont Park. Take D’ Tour, who has earned more than $1 million in her career, is also entered in the Ruffian.
Ginger Punch, trained by Bobby Frankel, took the First Flight Handicap (gr. II) July 8 at Belmont by five lengths in front-running fashion. Three weeks later the Stronach Stables filly went to Saratoga and blitzed the field, winning the Go for Wand Handicap (gr. I) by six lengths. For that one, she earned a berth in the $2-million Emirates Airlines Breeders’ Cup Distaff.
Overall, Ginger Punch has captured five wins in 11 starts and took second in five other tries. Rafael Bejarano, aboard for the last two wins, will ride. Bred in Florida by Adena Springs, Ginger Punch will carry 120 pounds and leave from post 2.
Tour D’ Tour, another Florida-bred, has not raced since defeating Ginger Punch in the Ogden Phipps. The layoff does not concern trainer David Fawkes, who also plans to enter the 6-year-old mare in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff.
“Last year after the Beldame, her blood work didn’t come back right,” said Fawkes of Take d’Tour’s last-place finish in the nine-furlong event at Belmont Park. “So we decided to space out her races more.
“Last year, she had 10 starts; this will be her fourth start of the year. She’s an older horse now, and we felt that if we gave her breaks in-between her races, we would have a stronger horse for the Breeders’ Cup. And with her speed, we absolutely feel she will be a good fit at Monmouth Park.”
A daughter of Tour d'Or-Cherry Flare, Take D’ Tour has been on the board in 18 of 24 career tries, winning 10. Owned by Alice Muller, she was second in her other two races in 2007, including a 1 1/4-length loss to Ermine in the Apple Blossom Handicap (gr. I) at Oaklawn Park in April.
Take D’ Tour finished second in last year’s Ruffian, two lengths behind Pool Land.
Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkens will also send out a pair of 4-year-old fillies, Miss Shop and Teammate. Both last ran in the Personal Ensign Stakes (gr. I), with Miss Shop winning by three lengths and Teammate finishing a distant fifth.
A Hobeau Farm homebred, Miss Shop has won nine of 25 lifetime starts, three of them this year. The Deputy Minister-Shopping filly took third place in last year’s Ruffian.
Rahys’ Appeal, who is on a six-race losing streak and will leave from the rail, rounds out the field. The 5-year-old mare may be making her last start. After this season, she is going to Gallagher’s Stud in New York, where she was born, to begin her broodmare career.
$300,000 Ruffian Handicap (Grade I, Race 8, 4:40 p.m.), Fillies and Mares, 3 & Up, 1 1/16 miles
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Rahys' Appeal (NY), 115, Garrett K. Gomez
2. Ginger Punch (FL), 120, Rafael Bejarano
3. Miss Shop (FL), 118, Javier Castellano
4. Take D' Tour (FL), 120, Eibar Coa
5. Teammate (KY), 116, Cornelio H. Velasquez