09/25/2008 12:00AM

Ginger Punch, Lemon Drop Mom meet again


ELMONT, N.Y. - Ginger Punch beat Lemon Drop Mom by a nose in the Personal Ensign Stakes, one of the epic battles this summer at Saratoga.

The season has changed but the rivalry continues as they square off again Saturday in the Grade 1, $600,000 Beldame Stakes for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles at Belmont Park.

The field also includes two from trainer Todd Pletcher: Unbridled Belle, who upset Ginger Punch in last year's Beldame, and Leah's Secret, a cross entrant in the HBPA Stakes on Saturday at Presque Isle Downs. Cocoa Beach completes the five-horse field.

Ginger Punch puts a four-race winning streak on the line. Last season's Breeders' Cup Distaff and Eclipse Award winner is in the midst of another stellar campaign, having won three straight Grade 1 stakes.

The first two were decisive wins in the Ogden Phipps Handicap at Belmont and the Go for Wand Handicap at Saratoga.

Stretching out to a 1 1/4 miles for the first time in her career, Ginger Punch was all out to keep the winning the streak alive in the Personal Ensign with Rafael Bejarano aboard.

"She was out of position all the way," trainer Bobby Frankel said. "She put in a big effort. I think the jockey was more concerned about the distance than riding her properly."

Lemon Drop Mom wound up on the losing end of a heart-breaking head bob.

"The only spot where Ginger Punch was ahead of us was where it counted," said trainer Tim Ritchey. "To run that good a race against a champion, our filly moved up in her form. Her races have gotten better and better. Her pedigree said she should get better as a 4-year-old, and obviously she has. Hopefully, we can keep on that same roll."

Lemon Drop Mom hit the board against some of the division leaders in her last three races. Prior to the Personal Ensign, she was second to Hystericalady in the Delaware Handicap and third to Unbridled Belle in the Obeah at Delaware Park.

"She's run against the toughest fillies in the country, and she's held her own," Ritchey said.

There are none tougher than Ginger Punch, now 5 and entering the final phase of her stellar career.

"I don't make the final decision, but I would think this would be her last year," Frankel said. "She might run in the Breeders' Cup and in the Sunshine Millions. That might be her last race. Maybe the Breeders' Cup will be her last race."