By Karen M. Johnson
Ginger Punch, last year's champion older female, had her first work since winning the Louisville Stakes (gr.II) on the morning of May 16 at Belmont Park.
With Angel Cordero Jr. in the saddle, Ginger Punch breezed a half-mile over the training track, which was listed as good following morning rain, in 49.61 seconds, the seventh-fastest of 30 works at the distance.
Bobby Frankel, Ginger Punch's trainer, is pointing the 5-year-old daughter of Awesome Again to the Ogden Phipps Handicap (gr.I) at Belmont June 14. She finished second in last year's Ogden Phipps to the now retired Take d'Tour, who notched her second consecutive victory in the race.
"To be honest, she looks better than ever," Frankel said after Ginger Punch's work. "She's back to her good form. She ran a 3 ¼ (on the Ragozin Sheets in the Louisville), and that is normal for her."
In her second start this year, Ginger Punch, who is owned and bred by Stronach Stables, finished third, beaten eight lengths as the heavy favorite in the April 5 Apple Blossom (gr.I) at Oaklawn Park. Her Apple Blossom loss was preceded by a 6 ¾-length romp in the Sunshine Millions Distaff at Gulfstream Park Jan. 26. The Sunshine Millions was the mare's first start since winning the Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr.I) at Monmouth Park Oct. 27 as a supplemental entry.
After witnessing her 3 3/4-length score in the May 2 Louisville at Churchill Downs, Frankel said perhaps the Apple Blossom puzzler was the result of Ginger Punch making the lead soon after leaving the starting gate.
"I don't know really, but maybe being on the lead too early was the problem," Frankel said.
Ginger Punch is just one of several horses Frankel is preparing for Grade I starts at Belmont in the next month. Besides the Ogden Phipps, which Frankel won back-to-back runnings of with Sightseek in 2003-04, he is eyeing the Metropolitan Mile (gr.I), the Just a Game (gr.IT), and Manhattan (gr.IT). Collectively, Frankel has won eight runnings of those prestigious Belmont races: Met Mile (4), Manhattan (3), and Just a Game (1).
First Defence, a Juddmonte Farms homebred, will run in the Met Mile May 26. The 4-year-old son of Unbridled's Song won an optional claimer at Churchill May 3.
Ventura, a 4-year-old daughter of Chester House, is being pointed to the Just a Game on the Belmont Stakes undercard June 7. Ventura, another Juddmonte runner, has won two of three starts this year, including the Madison Stakes (gr.IIT) at Keeneland April 9.
Out of Control, a Brazilian import, is a candidate for the Manhattan Handicap June 7. A 5-year-old son of Vettori, Out of Control finished second in the Turf Classic (gr.IT) at Churchill May 3. Proudinsky, winner of the Mervin Muniz (gr.IIT) at Fair Grounds March 8, is another Frankel runner possible for the Manhattan.
Frankel said Precious Kitten, who won the Matriarch (gr.IT) at Hollywood Park last November for her old connections, Ken and Sarah Ramsey, will run in the Gamely (gr.IT) at Hollywood Park May 26. Frankel considered the Just a Game for the mare, now owned by Roy and Gretchen Jackson, but noted she has good form over the Hollywood Turf course. Precious Kitten will leave New York May 20 for California. "She ran 65 feet further out than the winner (Rutherienne)," Frankel said. (Precious Kitten) is better than that."
In her only start in 2008 in the Jenny Wiley (gr.IIT) at Keeneland, Precious Kitten finished fifth, beaten less than two lengths after a wide trip.
"She ran 65 feet further out than the winner (Rutherienne)," Frankel said. (Precious Kitten) is better than that."