Defending older filly and mare champion Ginger Punch will take another step toward defending her honors Sept. 27 when she takes on four rivals in the $600,000 Beldame (gr. I) at Belmont Park.
The nine-furlong Beldame is one of five grade I events on a card headlined by the $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I), in which reigning Horse of the Year Curlin goes for a repeat victory and a chance to become the first American horse to break the $10 million barrier.
Five-year-old Ginger Punch is having another fantastic season. Trained by Bobby Frankel, she has won five of six starts and carries a four-race win streak into the main track event. The daughter of 1998 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Awesome Again is 12-5-2 from 20 starts, her win streak beginning with a nearly-four length victory in the Louisville Stakes (gr. II). An easy victory in the grade I Ogden Phipps was next, followed by two hard-fought wins at Saratoga in the Go for Wand Handicap (gr. I) and the Personal Ensign (gr. I)
“What makes her special? Well, she runs fast,” said Frankel. “And she’s determined. She likes to win. She’s easy to train. She’s just the kind of filly who does everything right. You don’t wake up in the morning worrying about her because you know she’s going to be all right.”
At least this year. In last year’s Beldame, Ginger Punch broke out in hives and finished third as the even-money favorite, a race in which Frankel said “nothing went right.” Yet, overcoming adversity seems to be Ginger Punch’s hallmark. After the Beldame, she rebounded to win the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Distaff (gr. I) after being bumped hard at the eighth pole, and both victories at Saratoga revealed just why she is a champion.
Stretching out to 10 furlongs in the Personal Ensign, Ginger Punch simply refused to quit and prevailed by a nose after a fierce stretch duel, while in the Go for Wand – which earned her an automatic berth in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic (gr. I) Oct. 24 at Santa Anita – she dove through a narrow opening at the top of the stretch before powering to a 1 1/4-length win.
“She’s got the heart of a champion,” said Frankel. “In the Go for Wand, if she wasn’t a champion, she wouldn’t have won. She wants to win.”
Ginger Punch will face Lemon Drop Mom, Leah’s Secret, Chilean-bred Cocoa Beach and Unbridled Belle. Lemon Drop Mom and Unbridled Belle were second and third, respectively, in the Personal Ensign.
$600,000 Beldame (gr. I, Race 6, 3:40 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 3 & Up, 1 1/8 Miles (Dirt)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Ginger Punch (FL), 123, Rafael Bejarano
2. Lemon Drop Mom (KY), 123, Jose C. Caraballo
3. Cocoa Beach (CHI), 123, Ramon A. Dominguez
4. Leah's Secret (FL), 123, Edgar S. Prado
5. Unbridled Belle (KY), 123, Alan Garcia