Bentley Smith is well-connected when it comes to Breeders' Cup horses. As the son-in-law of the late Frances Genter, he managed Frances Genter Stable for nearly 30 years and sent Smile to a 1986 Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) victory and, of course, watched Unbridled win the Classic (gr. I) in 1990.
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.
A Spanish owner and a British trainer are overheard conversing in French following a grade I victory on turf. Welcome to the Belmont Park fall meeting. It is here that the best American grass horses and their trainers and owners get their annual reality check from Europe's advance guard.
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.
It may be a foregone conclusion that many of the horses that win Breeders' Cup Challenge races would qualify for the World Championships anyway, but the first of six "Win and You're In" programs is said to have done much for recognition of Breeders' Cup and racetrack business.
Stronach Stables' favored Ginger Punch reeled in the pacesetter Teammate coming off the final turn and finished with authority to easily win the $250,000 Go for Wand Handicap (gr. I) for fillies and mares at Saratoga Saturday.
Grade I winner Ermine will be looking to rebound from a disappointing effort in her last start when she leads a field of six fillies and mares into the Go For Wand Handicap (gr. I) at 1 1/8 miles Saturday at Saratoga Race Course.
Stronach Stable's odds-on choice Ginger Punch rebounded from a neck loss in the Ogden Phipps Handicap (gr. I) last month to easily win Sunday's $147,000 First Flight Handicap (gr. II) for fillies and mares at Belmont Park.
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.
Alice Muller's even-money choice Take D' Tour opened up a sizable lead in the stretch and held on under Eibar Coa to make it back-to-back victories in the $300,000 Ogden Phipps Handicap (gr. I) for fillies and mares at Belmont Park Saturday.