Last year, Ginger Punch earned an automatic entry into the Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Monmouth Park after winning the Go for Wand by six lengths. At the Breeders’ Cup, Ginger Punch held off Hystericalady by a neck.
Frankel believes the five-year-old mare by Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Awesome Again is much better than she was last year when she became a champion.
“Obviously, she’s much better than last year,” Frankel said. “Physically, she looks 100 times better; she has matured a lot. Last year, coming into the race, I didn’t know how good she was. I was trying to get a graded stakes win into her.”
This year, Ginger Punch has won three of her four starts, with her lone loss in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park. There, carrying 122 pounds, she was the pace-setter early before fading to third behind Zenyatta.
“She got beat by Zenyatta, but she was giving six pounds to her that day,” Frankel said. “Plus, she didn’t run her race that day. I don’t know what happened to her in that race. Based on her ‘sheet’ numbers, it was way out of whack.”
Ginger Punch is coming off a 7¾-length victory in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps Handicap at Belmont Park, where she carried 123 pounds. Frankel believes his mare carrying the highweight of 124 pounds is justifiable.
“She deserves carrying that weight,” he said. “She won with 123 pounds. There isn’t another Grade 1 winner in this race. Right now, I am trying to get her as good as I can. Hopefully, she doesn’t get beat from now on.”
Frankel has also entered Stronach Stable’s Spring Waltz, who won a Gulfstream allowance race by 13 lengths and the Grade 2 Rampart Handicap by 3¼ lengths.
One of the trainers not scared in taking a shot at Ginger Punch is Gary Contessa, who will enter Runway Rosie. Contessa believes the four-year-old roan filly could have an impact, especially if Ginger Punch runs a race like she did in the Apple Blossom.
“I saw the race earlier in the year where Ginger Punch didn’t show up,” Contessa said. “My feeling is, if I think there are three or four horses I cannot beat, I will scratch out of the race. I am not going to be afraid of one horse. If you run second or third in a Grade 1 race, you’re in great shape.”
After Runway Rosie finished eighth in the Allaire DuPont Distaff Stakes at Pimlico on Preakness Day, Contessa had a difficult time finding a race for her. That time, however, allowed Contessa to get Runway Rosie mentally ready and she responded with
a near five-length victory in the Proud Delta Stakes at Belmont Park.
“There was no place to go with her,” Contessa said. “Anyway, I wanted to clear the cobwebs from her head off of that race and she responded well.”
Recently, Craig Singer became the majority owner for Runway Rosie. According to Contessa, Singer will share ownership with Winning Move Stable until she is retired when he has full ownership.
Runway Rosie has Grade 1 experience behind her with a third-place finish to retired Belmont Stakes winner Rags to Riches in the Las Virgenes Stakes at Santa Anita last year. Runway Rosie was also second in the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel Stakes and the Grade 3 Next Move Handicap.
“It would be a dream to win a race like this,” Contessa said. “If she finishes second or third in a Grade 1 race, that will only enhance her value down the road.”
Steve Asmussen, who won three races on Saratoga’s Opening Day card on Wednesday, including the Grade 3 Schuylerville with Jardin, will send Millennium Farms’ Copper State in the Go for Wand.
Copper State is coming off a second-place finish to Unbridled Belle in the Grade 2 Obeah Stakes at Delaware Park in June. That race was her first start since coming to Asmussen’s barn.
“She’s a very nice filly,” Asmussen said. “We were pleased with her effort at Delaware. Visually, her race was impressive. She was off the bridle the whole way. She made a long run and stayed on nicely. This is an ambitious spot, but it is also a great opportunity.”
Prior to being shipped to the East Coast, Copper State had been racing against Illinois-breds and open company at Hawthorne and Arlington Park. Over 18 career races, including her last six races where she has finished no worse than third, Copper State has won four races for $232,873 in earnings.
Moon Catcher returns to Saratoga for owner Marsha Naify and trainer Christophe Clement. Last year, after winning the Grade 2 Delaware Oaks, Moon Catcher finished fourth to Lady Joanne here in the Grade 1 Alabama. In her last start, the four-year-old was never a factor after she had stumbled at the start of the Ogden Phipps Handicap.
The field for Saturday’s Grade 1, $250,000 Go For Wand Handicap
PP HORSE TRAINER JOCKEY WGT.
1a. Ginger Punch Robert Frankel Rafael Bejarano 124
2. Inside Passage Barclay Tagg Eibar Coa 113
3. Indescribable Bill Mott Kent Desormeaux 115
4. Moon Catcher Christophe Clement Edgar Prado 115
5. Copper State Steve Asmussen Shaun Bridgmohan 114
6. Runway Rosie Gary Contessa Rajiv Maragh 114
7. Over Under Dallas Stewart Robby Albarado 113
8a. Spring Waltz Robert Frankel Javier Castellano 117
a-Ginger Punch and Spring Waltz are coupled.