11/01/2007 11:00PM

Buyer hit home run with Ginger Punch's dam

EmailLEXINGTON, Ky. - Ginger Punch had all the kick that her opponents could handle in the Breeders' Cup Distaff, and the pretty chestnut daughter of leading sire Awesome Again has virtually sewn up an Eclipse Award for herself as the leading older filly or mare this year.

That is quite an accomplishment for a racehorse who, at the beginning of 2007, had won only a maiden special and an allowance from a half-dozen starts. She was racing in good company and earned $74,619 in her first season of racing last year. So she had talent, but the filly's progress through her 4-year-old season has been impressive.

Unraced at 2 and lightly raced through her 3-year-old season, Ginger Punch has greatly repaid that conservative approach by becoming a multiple Grade 1 stakes winner of more than $1.9 million for her owner-breeder, Frank Stronach's Adena Springs.

An owner with lesser reserves than Stronach might have given up on a filly who was slow to develop and was bought back at the Adena Springs annual sale of 2-year-olds in training in Florida.

"With Ginger Punch, as with all our juveniles, Frank and the team at Adena South go through the horses before the sales," said Jack Brothers of Adena Springs. "They make physical evaluations and try to put an appraisal value on them before sending them through the ring."

Adena Springs bought back Ginger Punch for $27,000 at the sale in 2005, in part because she was a daughter of Awesome Again and because they believed in her.

"At the sale, she had quality but hadn't filled out," said Adena's Dan Hall. "Only in the last year she's begun to fill out and become the mare she is now. This season, she has blossomed, and her form shows it."

The step up in class from her decent form of 2006 to the championship form of 2007 came after Adena Springs had sold her dam.

Adena consigned the dam of Ginger Punch, the then-14-year-old mare Nappelon, to the 2006 Keeneland January mixed sale and sold her for $15,000 in foal to Preakness Stakes winner Red Bullet on a June 1 cover.

The lucky buyer was Beth Ann Brown-Gambone.

"Steve Johnson from Margaux Farm did the bidding for me in purchasing Nappelon," she said, "and I keep my mares with him when they're in Kentucky."

In selecting the dam of Ginger Punch, Brown-Gambone said: "One of the reasons that I liked this mare so much was that she made 70 starts and was a graded stakes winner. I'm located in Pennsylvania, and with the slots coming in, I bought her with the plan to raise some nice Pennsylvania-breds."

Key to Brown-Gambone's plan was durability and class. Nappelon had raced 70 times in four seasons on the track, and had won 17 races (including the Grade 2 Comely) and earned $630,777.

Ginger Punch is the fifth foal and first stakes winner out of her dam. After Nappelon foaled Ginger Punch in Florida, she produced a colt by Alphabet Soup named Alpha Numero and has a 2-year-old filly by Touch Gold named Gold Revenue. The mare's yearling filly by Red Bullet was bred by Brown-Gambone and is a Pennsylvania-bred.

The breeder sent her yearling through the Keeneland September sale, but she didn't meet her reserve.

"I RNA'd the Red Bullet at the sale, then sold her privately to Team Valor and kept a piece of her," Brown-Gambone said. "They had her on their website to syndicate for $200,000, and after the Breeders' Cup, they upped her price to $300,000, and so many people wanted to buy a piece of her that they are having a lottery to draw the lucky buyers" for the remaining shares.

With the success of Ginger Punch, Brown-Gambone has hit the jackpot as a buyer and breeder, despite the fact that her operation is smaller than it once was.

"I was breeding a large number of horses in the past with my husband under the name of Our Farm, but my husband passed away and I am trying to continue breeding a smaller number of mares but with higher quality," she said. "Right now, I have three graded stakes producers that I am going to keep."

Her star broodmare is in foal to Leroidesanimaux on a Feb. 17 cover, she said, which would yield a foal of 2008 around mid-January.

The expected early foaling date will help produce a big, well-grown yearling or weanling for Brown-Gambone to offer at the sales, but the breeder had to miss a year to get the mare back in foal early. In that, too, luck played a role.

"I had her covered to Medaglia d'Oro in 2006, but when I checked her back, she was not in foal at 60 days," Brown-Gambone said. Missing a foal is not something breeders look forward to, but last year's loss of breeding potential "allowed me to get her in foal on a good, early cover," she said.

Brown-Gambone anticipates many future opportunities with Nappelon, "who is a big, strong mare, standing about 16-1 hands. She's a tank, and she is in such good shape that I believe she's going to have babies for a long time."