She found a way to win.
Splitting rivals with a gutsy move in deep stretch, the 5-year-old mare muscled her way to the front and pulled clear for a 1 ¼-length win over Copper State in the 55th edition of the Grade 1, $250,000 Go for Wand Saturday at Saratoga Race Course.
“She is a champion,” said Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel of Ginger Punch, who had a much easier time with her six-length score in last year’s Go for Wand. “I was a little worried about finding a place to run. They all ganged up on her. They were looking for her. When she dropped back inside, the hole finally opened up.”
As a sudden rainstorm began pelting the track, Ginger Punch broke on top but was outsprinted for the early lead by Moon Catcher, and wound up third on the rail, just inside Copper State, as the pacesetter ticked off fractions of 24.04 and 49.01. Rounding the turn, Bejarano began looking for room to run and finally took her to the outside at the top of the stretch, where an eager Ginger Punch took aim on the leaders and dove through an opening approaching the eighth pole, pulling clear to hit the wire in 1:53.43 for the nine furlongs.
“I was in perfect position but when I came to the three-eighths pole I saw the No. 7 (Over Under) was completely dead before coming to the turn,” said Bejarano. “So, I tired to look for a spot on the outside. Then, I tried to hold her a little bit and come in through the inside. My filly showed me a big kick because she was a little mad, you know? When I saw the No. 5 (Copper State) in the stretch coming out, and still running, I tried to come in and get clear.
“I knew I was on the best horse.”
The victory was the third straight and fourth in five starts this year for Ginger Punch, last year’s Eclipse Award winner as the nation’s top older filly or mare. With a lifetime record of 11 wins in 19 starts, with five seconds and two thirds, Ginger Punch now has earned $2,705,603 for Stronach Stables. She returned $2.40 as the 1-5 favorite.
Copper State, a 16-1 shot, finished a length and three-quarters in front of Indescribable, who in turn was followed by Moon Catcher, Over Under, and Runway Rosie. Spring Waltz and Inside Passage were scratched.
“She ran a great second and Ginger Punch simply beat us late,” said trainer Steve Asmussen of the runner-up. “I am very proud of her race.”
The next start for Ginger Punch, said Frankel, would probably be the Grade 1, $600,000 Beldame at Belmont Park on September 27, the same race she used as her final prep for her victory in the Distaff last year.