Condition books don’t come with warning stickers. Perhaps they don’t need them. After all, the trainers who saw Ginger Punch’s name on the nomination list and still entered horses in today’s Grade I Go For Wand knew what they were getting into.
Winner of the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Distaff and Eclipse Award as champion filly or mare, Ginger Punch will try to duplicate the dominating performance she put on her last year in the $250,000 Go For Wand. In the 2007 renewal, the daughter of Awesome Again scampered away from the field to win the 1 1/8-mile stakes by 6 lengths,
What’s frightening is the thought Ginger Punch might be even better now than the last time she graced Saratoga with her presence.
“Physically she’s better,” said trainer Bobby Frankel, “and mentally she’s better.”
Owned by Stronach Stable and bred by Stronach’s Adena Springs Farm, Ginger Punch returns to Saratoga off a victory in the Grade I Ogden Phipps Handicap at Belmont Park, where she skipped away to win by 7 3/4 lengths. Jockey Rafael Bejarano comes in from California to ride the 1-2 favorite, who will carry the highweight of 124 pounds.
The chestnut mare, who concedes from seven to 11 pounds to her rivals, will break from the rail as she attempts to win her fifth Grade I.
“I’d rather be outside, but that’s OK,” said a not-too-worried Frankel.
Will a wet track worry the reigning queen? Probably not. The 5-year-old owns two wins in four lifetime starts over an off track, with one of those scores coming over sloppy going at Monmouth Park in the Distaff. Ginger Punch has earned $653,924 in 2008 with three wins from four starts, boosting her career earnings to $2,555,603 – nearly $423,000 more than the other seven entrants combined.
“She’s very consistent – just a very, very good filly. I can depend on her all the time,” her trainer said. “It’s unbelievable how she goes out there and tries as hard as she does every time. To win another Grade I would be great.”
No horse has won back-to-back runnings of the Go For Wand since the race was moved to Saratoga (and stretched a furlong) in 1994, though Hall of Famer Lady’s Secret repeated in the old Maskette at Belmont Park in 1985 and 1986 and Tosmah did the same at Aqueduct in 1964 and 1965.
Christophe Clement sends out Moon Catcher, a distant fifth to Ginger Punch in the Ogden Phipps last out. With the race lacking early speed, the 4-year-old daughter of Malibu Moon is a candidate for the lead, though jockey Edgar Prado will determine Moon Catcher’s placement.
“We’ll have to see how the race develops,” Prado said. “I’d like to have (Moon Catcher) by the leaders.”
Inside Passage (Eibar Coa) takes a significant step up in the Go For Wand. Two-for-three this year since entering Barclay Tagg’s barn, the daughter of Tiznow finished third last out in the minor Proud Delta at Belmont Park, her first stakes try. She owns one start at Saratoga, at today’s distance, a close third in an optional claimer last year.
Indescribable has run well at the 9-furlong distance, taking the Grade III Arlington Matron in May, and though none of her four career wins have been on old-fashioned dirt, the Pleasant Tap filly does have the dynamic duo of Bill Mott and Kent Desormeaux on her side.
Copper State (Shaun Bridgmohan) makes her second start for trainer Steve Asmussen; the Jump Start filly was runner-up to Unbridled Belle in the Grade III Obeah at Delaware Park June 14.
Runway Rosie (Rajiv Maragh) comes out of the Proud Delta at Belmont July 2, when she beat third-place Indian Passage by 5 1/4 lengths, and the Include filly has been in the exacta all four times she has ran at today’s distance.
Over Under (Robby Albarado) entered Dallas Stewart’s barn at the start of the year and has gone three-of-five since, the last being a 3-length score in the Wild Rose at Prairie Meadows.
Frankel also sends out Spring Waltz (Javier Castellano), who makes up the lighter half of the Stronach Stables entry. The Silver Charm mare finished fourth in the Delaware Handicap July 13, her first start for Frankel, after capturing the Grade II Rampart at Gulfstream Park for Brian Lynch in March.