05/02/2008 12:00AM

Ginger Punch impressive in Louisville


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Bouncing back from arguably the worst performance of her career, Ginger Punch had her Eclipse Award-winning form on display Friday at Churchill Downs when she drew off to an easy 3 3/4-length victory over Leah's Secret in the $340,200 Louisville Stakes.

Ginger Punch locked up her Eclipse Award in 2007 by registering a game neck decision over Hystericalady in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf. She began her 2008 campaign with an easy victory in Gulfstream Park's Sunshine Millions Distaff before turning in an inexplicably poor effort 10 weeks later when she finished a distant third as the 2-5 favorite in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park.

But Ginger Punch showed no residual effects from the Apple Blossom when she returned in the Grade 2 Louisville. Racing over a racetrack dampened by light rain which began to fall just prior to post time, Ginger Punch ($3) stalked the early pace of Unforgotten, moved to a short advantage midway down the backstretch, disposed of a bid from Leah's Secret into the stretch, then readily pulled away despite jumping tire tracks left by the starting gate near the sixteenth pole.

Leah's Secret was making just her second start since moving to trainer Todd Pletcher's barn after being purchased privately last summer by WinStar Farm. Restrained off the early pace by Garrett Gomez, Leah's Secret engaged Ginger Punch around the second turn and while no match was easily second best.

Lear's Princess, Unforgotten, and Kettleoneup rounded out the order of finish. Bayou's Lassie and Silver Knockers were scratched.

The victory was the ninth in 17 career starts for Ginger Punch, who is trained by Bobby Frankel for owner Frank Stronach. She completed 1 1/16 miles over a track which was still rated fast in 1:43.08.

"She ran her race and everything worked out well," said Frankel, who made no commitment for Ginger Punch's next start.

Ginger Punch was reunited in the Louisville with her regular rider, Rafael Bejarano, who also rode her to victory in the Breeders' Cup.

"She doesn't like to be on the lead and I didn't want to move too early," said Bejarano. "When I felt pressure near the five-furlong pole I let her go and she gave me a big run."