Personal Ensign preview part II: Punchers’ Chances

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Ginger Punch, who tries 1 1/4 miles for the first time, is not the only horse in the Personal Ensign – today’s ninth race and the first of four Grade I stakes on the weekend.

Spring Waltz will be a more than capable backup should the favorite not start. Also trained by Bobby Frankel, Stronach Stable’s daughter of Silver Charm exits a fourth in the Grade II Delaware Handicap at 10 furlongs, her first start in more than four months. Prior to the Del Cap, Spring Waltz dominated a pair of 9-furlong contests at Gulfstream Park, including an easy win in the Grade II Rampart March 9. Javier Castellano has the call should Spring Waltz start Friday.

Unbridled Belle enters as the most experienced 10-furlong horse in the race with five starts at the distance. Trained by Todd Pletcher for Team Valor Stable, Unbridled Belle comes in off a third in the Del Cap, a race she won last year before running second as the favorite in the Personal Ensign. The Broken Vow mare defeated Ginger Punch in the Grade I Beldame at Belmont in October and finished fifth to the favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff.

Unbridled Belle began her 2008 season with an easy score in the Grade III Obeah at Delaware June 14. In the paddock before the Delaware Handicap, she froze and then fell, but rebounded to run well, considering the circumstances.

“I don’t really know what happened to her that day, it was very odd and atypical of her behavior because she usually handles herself so well. But we’ve schooled her since then and she’s doing excellent and training great,” Pletcher said. “A mile and a quarter is kind of her game and something she handles very well so we’re looking forward to Friday.”

Ramon Dominguez has the return call.

Darley Stable’s Golden Velvet (Eibar Coa to ride) was freshened after a distant second to Ginger Punch in the Grade I Ogden Phipps. The daughter of Seeking The Gold stretches back out in the Personal Ensign and her last two-turn start was a runaway score in the Grade III Sixty Sails Handicap at Hawthorne April 19. Kiaran McLaughlin took over as trainer last fall after Golden Velvet left Saeed bin Suroor’s Dubai barn, and she immediately paid dividends. She took an optional claimer last October and dead-heated for the win in the Grade III Sabin January 6 at Gulfstream Park. With four races through the first half of the season, McLaughlin opted for a break and circled the Personal Ensign. She shows three works over the Polytrack at Godolphin’s Greentree Training Center.

“Golden Velvet worked really well over the Polytrack and we’ve had three or four horses do that and come over to the main track and win, so I think the horses are moving forward off that surface. She took the last race pretty hard so we decided to give her a little time in between starts. We gave her about 10 days off after the Phipps and since then she’s been training fabulous,” McLaughlin said. “She’s a better filly going two turns and we’re excited to stretch her back out. I don’t know how we beat Ginger Punch; she’s a very good horse. But Golden Velvet wants 10 furlongs, no question about it.”

Lemon Drop Mom comes in off a second in the Del Cap, where she beat Unbridled Belle. Robert Evans’ homebred has matured this season under Tim Ritchey’s tutelage and the 4-year-old Lemon Drop Kid filly rates an upset chance. Regular jockey Jose Caraballo put Lemon Drop Mom on the front in the Del Cap and she responded with a strong effort behind runaway winner Hystericalady. The Kentucky-bred could find herself on the lead again in a paceless race and Ritchey enters full of guarded optimism.

“The Del Cap was her best race so far and she’s come out of it well so we’re excited. Certainly she’s got to step up her game again, there are some tough fillies in there, but that’s why they run the races,” Ritchey said. “Her pedigree says she should handle the trip no problem. Last year she wasn’t a graded-stakes caliber filly but this year she’s turned into that.”

Indescribable (Kent Desormeaux) chased Ginger Punch home in the Go For Wand, rallying from last to check in third. Don Adam sent the 4-year-old Pleasant Tap filly to Bill Mott two starts back after a win in the Grade III Arlington Matron for Graham Motion.

Mrs. Leverett Miller’s So Glitzy (Cornelio Velasquez) owns a win over the track July 25, when she won an optional claimer by a nose at 9 furlongs. Trainer Allen Jerkens upset the Personal Ensign last year with Miss Shop.