Ginger Punch Prevails in Ensign Thriller

Ginger Punch Prevails in Ensign Thriller
Photo: Coglianese Photos
Ginger Punch outnods Lemon Drop Mom in the Personal Ensign.
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There were many who questioned whether champion mare Ginger Punch would be able to stretch out to 10 furlongs—something she had never done before. In the $400,000 Personal Ensign Stakes (gr. I) (VIDEO) Aug. 22 at Saratoga, the 5-year-old daughter of Awesome Again   was grateful for the added distance, as she needed every last stride to pass Lemon Drop Mom, getting up in the final head bob to win by the narrowest of margins.

Coming four-wide into the stretch under Rafael Bejarano, Ginger Punch came to take on Lemon Drop Mom and Jose Caraballo, who, after receiving a perfect ground-saving trip, struck the lead at the eighth-pole. Those two began their fierce stretch duel at the top of the lane, but Lemon Drop Mom always kept a narrow advantage. It wasn’t until the final stride that Ginger Punch nailed the 10-1 longshot, as she put her head down perfectly at the wire.

“For me, she is a super filly," Bejarano said. "She tries all the time. As soon as I got to the turn, she was kind of tired, but as soon as she saw the other filly pass me in the final furlong, she kept coming back again. This race was very close and very scary. The other horse tried hard, too, but my horse doesn’t quit. She runs ’til the end.”    

Going off as the 4-5 choice in a field of six, Ginger Punch won for the fourth consecutive time and recorded her sixth career grade I victory. She stayed a perfect 3-for-3 on the Saratoga dirt, as she entered off a 1 1/4-length triumph in the Go for Wand (gr. I), a race she also won in 2007. Owned and bred by Frank Stronach, Ginger Punch is now a remarkable 12-5-2 from 20 lifetime starts.

Unbridled Belle, the 2-1 second choice, finished 2 3/4 lengths behind in third. The final time on a fast main track was 2:03.37.

Robert Evans’ Lemon Drop Mom, who was winless in graded stakes company and entered off a runner-up performance in the Delaware Handicap (gr. II), took the lead through a :24.62 quarter. But she soon relinquished the top spot to Golden Velvet, who hit a half-mile in :48.85. Unbridled Belle was second at that point, with Lemon Drop Mom sitting comfortably near the rail in third.

Ginger Punch was fourth through most of the backstretch while saving ground, but as they made their way through the late stages of the final turn, Bejarano had to steer her toward the outside to find room. The chestnut mare had to take a four-wide entry into the lane, where she met Lemon Drop Mom for an epic stretch duel. Golden Velvet and Unbridled Belle could not keep pace.

“I thought we got beat. She got the perfect bob," trainer Bobby Frankel said. "Today and in her last race, she had to overcome a lot of things. She’s in heat—and I was a nervous wreck. When I saw her in the paddock, she was (acting) as if she was ready to be bred. By the way Rafael was putting her in a drive, I thought she had a lot to do. As soon as she got to the quarter-pole, I knew she had a chance.

“We’re thinking about the Beldame (gr. I, at Belmont Park Sept. 27). We want to see how she comes out of this race.”

Ginger Punch paid $3.30, $2.70, and $2.10. The exacta (1-3) returned $21.40, while the trifecta (1-3-5) was worth $35.60.

Bred in Florida, Ginger Punch is out of the Bold Revenue mare Nappelon. She has now earned $2,945,603.

Indescribable was fourth, followed by Golden Velvet and So Glitzy. Spring Waltz, a coupled entry with Ginger Punch, was scratched.

View Stakes Detail and Full Equibase Chart

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