Stronach Stables’ Ginger Punch, keen on defending her champion older female title of 2007, made it look easy in the $300,000 Ogden Phipps Handicap with a commanding victory in the Belmont Park fixture June 14.
With Rafael Bejarano riding for trainer Bobby Frankel, Ginger Punch sat just off the early pace set by Mistical Plan, stalked the leader heading into the final turn, was on even terms with a quarter-mile to go, and powered away to win by 7 ¾ lengths. Golden Velvet rallied from mid-pack to take second, a length ahead of Mistical Plan.
The fractions for the Ogden Phipps, raced at 1 1/16 miles around one turn at Belmont, were :23.53 for the opening quarter-mile, :46.56 for the half-mile, 1:10.90 for three-quarters of a mile, and 1:35.62 for the mile. The final time was 1:42.37 on a track rated fast.
Ginger Punch, a 5-year-old mare by Awesome Again out of the Bold Revenue mare Nappelon, won for the third time in five starts at Belmont. Last year the New York track, she won the Ruffian Handicap (gr. I) and First Flight Handicap (gr. II), but fell a neck short in the Ogden Phipps.
“Today, I tried to follow the speed,” Bejarano said of his ride aboard Ginger Punch. “At the five-eighths (pole), I wanted to get into position, and by the three-eighths, the race was done.”
Hall of Fame trainer Frankel has guided Ginger Punch to a record of 10-5-2 from 18 starts and more than $2.55 million in earnings. And with three wins in four starts this year, the mare shows no signs of slowing down.
“They talked about retiring her last year, but I said, ‘She’s pretty sound. Why not keep her in training?’ ” Frankel said. “She’s not the prettiest filly in the world, but she’s got a heart the size of an elephant and that’s what counts. She has been training really well. She had a quarter crack about three weeks ago, but it came together very well.
“Today, she ran like she trained. I don’t know what’s next. Today, she carried 123 pounds--you want champions to stay around, but then the weight starts piling on.”
Ginger Punch paid $3 to win in the Ogden Phipps in her typical role as favorite. Spring Waltz, entered by Frankel in case Ginger Punch’s quarter crack became an issue, was scratched; she has won her last four starts, most recently the Rampart Handicap (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park for Stronach Stables.
Ginger Punch was bred in Florida by Frank Stronach’s Adena Springs.