01/26/2008 12:00AM

Ginger Punch cruises in return

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Eclipse Award winner Ginger Punch won one for the home team when cruising to an easy 6 3/4-length victory over pacesetter Peach Flambe in Saturday's $500,000 Sunshine Millions Distaff at Gulfstream Park.

Ginger Punch, idle since her victory in the Breeders' Cup Distaff, is owned by Frank Stronach, the founder and chairman of Magna Entertainment Corp. as well as the creator and driving force behind the Sunshine Millions concept. Ginger Punch was the first horse Stronach has started in the six-year history of the Sunshine Millions.

Peach Flambe quickly sprinted clear from her inside post with Ginger Punch racing within easy striking position while allowed to save ground under her regular rider, Rafael Bejarano. Ginger Punch engaged Peach Flambe for the lead leaving the turn, gradually edged clear once settling into the stretch, then steadily increased her advantage while under mild encouragement to the end.

Peach Flambe easily outlasted Memorette by two lengths for second, with the rest of the 11-horse field strung out far behind the leaders.

Ginger Punch covered 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.14 over a fast track and paid $2.60.

"She ran her race," said trainer Bobby Frankel who watched the Sunshine Millions Distaff from California. "That's the way she likes to run, stalking the leader, and she did what she had to do. It's also nice to be able to get a relatively easy race for her first start back."

Frankel said Ginger Punch would return to the West Coast and likely will be pointed for the Grade 1 Santa Margarita at Santa Anita on March 9.

"Hopefully, the new surface will be in by then at Santa Anita and she'll handle it okay because that's where the Breeders' Cup will be this year," Frankel said. "After that, she'll probably have an Eastern campaign similar to last season."

Stronach said he and Frankel made the decision to keep Ginger Punch in training for another year.

"She's sound, we've already retired two Grade 1 winners, and we've got Awesome Again as a sire, which is why we decided to run her for another year," Stronach said.