10/28/2007 11:00PM

Ginger Punch rewards $180K bet

EmailOCEANPORT, N.J. - From the time Ginger Punch guaranteed herself a spot in the Breeders' Cup Distaff by winning the Go for Wand at Saratoga in July, trainer Bobby Frankel continuously harped on the reasons not to run in the race.

Since Ginger Punch was not nominated to the Breeders' Cup as a foal, it cost owner Frank Stronach $180,000 to supplement her to the Distaff. Frankel fretted about the speed-favoring nature of Monmouth Park's surface and the fact that if a horse drew an outside post in a big field, that supplemental fee would "be flushed away."

But after Ginger Punch finished third in the Beldame at Belmont Park on Sept. 30, Frankel knew Ginger Punch needed to win the Distaff in order to remain in contention for a divisional championship.

"She deserved to fight for a championship, and she was doing good," Frankel said Monday from Southern California. "We backed off of her as much as you could back off one running back in four weeks. We just freshened her, and she had been breezing really well, and we took a shot."

That shot paid off handsomely as Ginger Punch, who received a terrific ground-saving ride from Rafael Bejarano, won a stirring stretch duel with Hystericalady to take the $2,070,160 Breeders' Cup Distaff by a neck at sloppy Monmouth Park. Hystericalady, who bumped with Ginger Punch in midstretch, got second by a neck over the late-running Octave.

Ginger Punch's victory, combined with the fourth-place finish by Nashoba's Key in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf, will likely earn Ginger Punch an Eclipse Award as North America's champion older filly or mare. Ginger Punch added the Breeders' Cup to victories in the Ruffian, Go for Wand, and First Flight Handicap.

Ginger Punch enjoyed a championship season after undergoing laser treatments last winter to remove some growths on her throat that were impairing her breathing.

Nothing impeded Ginger Punch on Saturday as she raced an up-close fourth under Bejarano, made a move to the lead along with Hystericalady leaving the three-furlong marker, then outdueled that rival to win by a neck despite being bumped by Hystericalady in midstretch. Ginger Punch, a 4-year-old daughter of Stronach's 1998 BC Classic winner, Awesome Again, covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.11 and returned $11.

"I had a lot of horse, that's why [Hystericalady] tried to push me to the rail," Bejarano said. "She tried to intimidate my horse. I know she was going to fight - that's why she was coming back again."

Stronach said that because he has so many horses it would be cost-prohibitive to nominate each one for a fee of $500.

"We nominate maybe 20 percent or 30 percent, then with the rest we just take a guess and pray and hope for the best," Stronach said.

Stronach will have to decide whether to keep Ginger Punch in training for another year. If he listens to Frankel again, she will be running in 2008.

"If I give him some encouragement, I got a feeling he'll keep her in training," Frankel said. "He kept Ghostzapper in training, and that was a much riskier proposition."

Ghostzapper won the 2004 Breeders' Cup Classic for Stronach and was named Horse of the Year. He won the 2005 Metropolitan Handicap but came out of that race with an injury and was subsequently retired.

If Stronach elects to keep Ginger Punch in training, Frankel said she would be pointed to the $500,000 Sunshine Millions Distaff at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 26. The Sunshine Millions, a brainchild of Stronach's, pits Florida-breds - such as Ginger Punch - against California-breds in a series of eight races split between Gulfstream Park and Santa Anita.

Hystericalady, who raced on the pace the entire way in the Distaff, will run again next year, said Jerry Hollendorfer, the trainer and part-owner of the filly. Hollendorfer didn't rule out running her again this year and perhaps trying her on the turf in a race like the Grade 1 Matriarch at Hollywood Park in late November.

"We haven't run her on turf yet," he said. "That looks like an interesting spot."

Octave, who finished third in the Distaff, has been added to Sunday's Fasig-Tipton Kentucky November select sale by her owners, the Starlight Stable and Don and Barbara Lucarelli. She obviously could be bought and put back in training by her new connections. Lear's Princess, the 10th-place finisher in the Distaff, has been withdrawn from that sale and will race again next year, owner Terry Finley said.

Lady Joanne and Unbridled Belle, fourth and fifth, respectively, will both be freshened up and pointed to 2008 campaigns, most likely beginning in south Florida.