by Karen M. Johnson
Trainer Bobby Frankel said he isn’t thinking about the Breeders’ Cup Championships as much as the Sept. 30 Beldame (gr. I) at Belmont Park.
The Frankel-trained Ginger Punch, a 4-year-old, will be the favorite in the Beldame, a 1 1/8-mile dirt race for fillies and mares. Eight runners were entered in the one-turn race.
Frankel also entered Sugar Shake, but only one of the Frankel runners is permitted to run under New York State Racing and Wagering Board rules because he named jockey Rafael Bejarano on both. Sugar Shake is not expected to run unless Ginger Punch does not.
The $600,000 Beldame is a designated “Win and You’re In” Breeders’ Cup Distaff race. It’s not as simple as that because Ginger Punch, who won the Go for Wand (gr. I) at Saratoga, another “Win and You’re In” event, would still have to be supplemented for $180,000 to run in the Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Monmouth Park Oct. 27.
Frankel said he will let Ginger Punch’s owner, Frank Stronach, decide if he wants to supplement. Frankel has more immediate issues.
“I think if (Ginger Punch) wins the Beldame, she sews up the Eclipse Award in her division,” Frankel said Sept. 28. “To run in the Breeders’ Cup at that point would be for the money; I’ll leave that up to (Stronach).”
Ginger Punch enters the Beldame off three consecutive wins: the First Flight (gr. II), Go for Wand, and Ruffian (gr. I). She drew post 2.
“She is certainly getting prettier-looking as she keeps winning,” Frankel joked, then added, “She’s training well and her coat looks good. I just want to have (Bejarano) let her settle so she can get her feet under her.”
Frankel won back-to-back runnings of the Beldame with Sightseek in 2003-04.
Trainer Todd Pletcher seeks his third consecutive win in the Beldame, following scores with champions, Ashado (2005) and Fleet Indian (2006).
Pletcher will saddle a pair of graded winners in this year’s Beldame: Unbridled Belle and Indian Vale. The Pletcher runners are uncoupled in the wagering and both exit the Aug. 24 Personal Ensign (gr. I) in Saratoga.
Unbridled Belle was second as the favorite to Miss Shop, who is also entered in the Beldame. Indian Vale was third, a length behind her stablemate.
Unbridled Belle has a penchant for Delaware Park, where she has won three races, including a romp in this year’s Delaware Handicap (gr. II).
“We are hoping she can reproduce the form she has at Delaware here,” Pletcher said. “She has really moved forward this year. She’s best at a mile-and-a-quarter, but she gets a mile-and-an-eighth. Although the same concern I have with Indian Vale, I have with her: Two turns at a mile-and-an-eighth is better for both of them.
“Leading up to the Breeders’ Cup, there aren’t a lot of two-turn, grade I races, unless you want to experiment with a synthetic surface and I didn’t want to do that.”
Indian Vale is a perfect 6-for-6 at the Beldame distance, but accomplished those wins around two turns.
Ramon Dominguez rides Unbridled Belle from post 5. John Velazquez is aboard Indian Vale, who drew 3.
Miss Shop, trained by Allen Jerkens, was beaten less than a length by Ginger Punch in the Ruffian. That effort, combined with Miss Shop’s three-length win in the Personal Ensign, makes her a real threat to win the Beldame.
California invader Balance has had the misfortune of meeting the ultra-talented Nashoba’s Key in her last three starts. If Balance shows the same form she did when winning the La Canada (gr. II) and Santa Margarita (gr. I) earlier this year, she figures in the mix.