With her head held high, Ginger Punch paraded around the walking ring before the Go For Wand.
With a confident swagger that only the most popular girl carries, Ginger Punch looked like a standout. Her marshmallow-white face and chestnut coat kept all eyes on her.
She knew you were looking.
Ginger Punch strolled to the racetrack. Her trainer, Bobby Frankel fled to the racing office.
One foot on a short wooden bench, the other on the ground, Frankel leaned his arm on the windowsill and looked out the window as rain began to strengthen and then his eyes went back to the screen.
Composed and unfazed by the precipitation or the impending race, Frankel never said a word. That’s him.
Then he grimaced.
Maybe this wasn’t a foregone conclusion.
As the horses were loaded and ready for the start Ginger Punch lurched and hit the front doors of the gate.
“Oooh,” Frankel said.
It would get worse.
The reigning Eclipse champion broke well and jockey Rafael Bejarano made the decision to ease off the pace.
He allowed Edgar Prado and Moon Catcher to cross over and control the race. First problem. Copper State picked the next spot in second. Second problem. Ginger Punch sat on the rail in third.
The as-close-to-a-nightmare trip while still winning the race had begun.
Prado did exactly what everyone knew he would; he slowed it down, posting a quarter in 24.04 seconds and a half in 49.01.
“Jesus,” the trainer muttered as his horse approached the far turn with nowhere to go. Moon Catcher led, Copper State stalked while Indescribable, Over Under and Runway Rosie ranged up on the outside. Ginger Punch’s found herself four deep going into the final turn.
Bejarano tried to go outside and found a blocking sled. Back to the inside, he waited for a seam. When he finally saw daylight, Ginger Punch poked that glowing white face between a fading Moon Catcher and Copper State near the furlong marker.
Once there, the foregone conclusion had finally come around. Ginger Punch skipped home to win by comfortable 1 1/4 lengths over Copper State and Indescribable, who picked up Grade I black type that deserved an asterisk. Owned by Stronach Stables, the homebred Ginger Punch finished the 9 furlongs in 1:53.43.
“Jesus, what a trip she had. I thought she was dead,” Frankel said as the remainder of the horses crossed the wire and he headed for the winner’s circle.
On the way to the winner’s circle Frankel was hit by as many raindrops as “Congrats Bobby, unbelievable and great race.”
When Ginger Punch entered the winner’s circle, Frankel looked at Bejarano and shook his head.
His body language said it all – that was a little too close.
“Yeah they were after me,” Bejarano said. “At first I was in perfect position, but at a half-mile they came around. Then finally after the turn, I was able to find some room.”
Frankel returned to the racing office, just to catch another view of the bumper-boat trip.
“See they’re all ganging up on her. They’re all looking for her,” Frankel said while watching the replay. “I guess that happens when you run a 1-5 shot, they’re all over you. I was sweating it. She’s a champion though, just a good filly.”
Ginger Punch improved her stellar career lines to 11-for-19 for over $2.7 million. Last year, she took the Go For Wand by 6 lengths, part of a five-win season that included Breeders’ Cup Distaff, Ruffian and First Flight.
This year, she’s collected the Louisville, Ogden Phipps and Go For Wand to give her five Grade I stakes wins in her career.
The popular girl got all the attention again. The daughter of Awesome Again earned the looks.