Thursday, September 25, 2008
FILLIES LOOK TO GRAB A SHARE OF THE SPOTLIGHT ON SATURDAY
They’re fast. They’re determined. They’re gifted. And Saturday at Belmont Park, both Ginger Punch and Mauralakana (FR) take another step toward championship honors as the respective favorites in the Grade 1, $600,000 Beldame and the Grade 1, $600,000 Flower Bowl Invitational on the turf.
The nine-furlong Beldame (Race 6, 3:40 p.m.) and the Flower Bowl, at 1¼ miles (Race 7, 4:13 p.m.) are but two of five Grade 1 races on the day, headlined by the $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup, in which reigning Horse of the Year Curlin goes for a repeat victory and a chance to become the first American horse to break the $10 million barrier. Also on Saturday’s card are the $600,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational and the $400,000 Vosburgh at six furlongs.
Ginger Punch, a daughter of 1998 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Awesome Again who is 12-5-2 from 20 starts, began her winning streak in Kentucky with a nearly-four length victory in the Grade 2 Louisville Stakes. An easy victory in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps was next, followed by two hard-fought wins at Saratoga in the Go for Wand Handicap and the Personal Ensign, both Grade 1s.
“What makes her special? Well, she runs fast,” said her Hall of Fame trainer. “And she’s determined. She likes to win. She’s easy to train. She’s just the kind of filly who does everything right. You don’t wake up in the morning worrying about her because you know she’s going to be all right.”
At least this year. In last year’s Beldame, Ginger Punch broke out in hives and finished third as the even-money favorite, a race in which Frankel said “nothing went right.” Yet overcoming adversity seems to be Ginger Punch’s hallmark. After the Beldame, she rebounded to win the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Distaff after being bumped hard at the eighth pole, and both victories at Saratoga revealed just why she is a champion.
Stretching out to 10 furlongs in the Personal Ensign, Ginger Punch simply refused to quit and prevailed by a nose after a fierce stretch duel, while in the Go for Wand – which earned her an automatic berth in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic on October 24 at Santa Anita – she dove through a narrow opening at the top of the stretch before powering to a 1¼-length win.
“She’s got the heart of a champion,” said Frankel. “In the Go for Wand, if she wasn’t a champion, she wouldn’t have won. She wants to win.”
The same might be said of Mauralakana, who notched her first Grade 1 victory in August with a powerful late run in the Beverly D at Arlington Park. With the victory, Mauralakana earned an automatic starting berth in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf as part of the “Win and You’re In” challenge.
Having begun her career in France, Mauralakana didn’t register her first graded stakes win until July of 2007 in the Grade 3 Locust Grove. Transferred over the winter to Clement after purchased by Robert Scarborough as a broodmare prospect for $900,000 at the Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale, the daughter of Muhtathir opened her 2008 campaign with a narrow victory over Tejida in the Grade 2 The Very One. She suffered her only loss of the year to Hostess in the Grade 3 Orchid, and then tacked together wins in the Mairzy Doates Handicap at Calder and a pair of Grade 2s at Belmont, the Sheepshead Bay Handicap and the New York.
“Other than running faster than the others, I’m not sure what quality makes her better,” said Clement. “There’s luck involved, too, in that she keeps meeting the same group and winning. And there’s something to be said for race momentum. When things are going well, they tend to continue going well. If she’s running well, you keep the same routine.”
The field for Saturday’s 31st running of the Grade 1 Flower Bowl Invitational:
PP. HORSE TRAINER JOCKEY WGT.
1. Palmilla Jonathan Sheppard Edgar Prado 119
2. Communique George Arnold Javier Castellano 119
3. Dynaforce Bill Mott Alan Garcia 119
4. Mauralakana (GB) Christophe Clement Kent Desormeaux 123
5. Jade Queen Todd Pletcher Rafael Bejarano 119
6. Hostess H. James Bond Rajiv Maragh 119
The field for Saturday’s 70th running of the Grade 1 Beldame:
PP. HORSE TRAINER JOCKEY
1. Ginger Punch Bobby Frankel Rafael Bejarano
2. Lemon Drop Mom Timothy Ritchey Jose Caraballo
3. Cocoa Beach (CHI) Saeed bin Suroor Ramon Dominguez
4. Leah’s Secret Todd Pletcher Edgar Prado
5. Unbridled Belle Todd Pletcher Alan Garcia
All starters will carry 123 pounds.
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