06/15/2008 12:00AM

Ginger Punch romps in Phipps


ELMONT, N.Y. - Ginger Punch, looking every bit a reigning champion, romped to a 7 3/4-length victory Saturday in the Grade 1, $300,000 Ogden Phipps Handicap for fillies and mares at Belmont Park.

She lost last year's Phipps by a neck, a pivotal race than triggered a run of four stakes wins in five starts, which carried her to an Eclipse Award.

There was no suspense in the stretch this time.

Rafael Bejarano had the 5-year-old Ginger Punch in perfect stalking position throughout. They were third in the early stages as Mistical Plan set the fractions with Cowgirls Don't Cry second.

At the top of the turn, the Phipps became a two-horse affair as Ginger Punch steadily edged closer to the leader.

Turning for home, Ginger Punch was in charge. With a furlong to run, she was all alone.

"She's getting better day by day." Bejarano said. "I tried to follow the speed. At the five-eighths, I wanted to get into position. By the three eighths, the race was done."

All that remained was for Ginger Punch, Bejarano, and trainer Bobby Frankel to have their picture taken in the winner's circle.

"She's not the prettiest filly in the world but she's got a heart the size of an elephant, and that's what counts," Frankel said. "She's been training really well. Today she ran like she trained."

Clearly, the quarter crack Ginger Punch suffered three weeks ago was not a factor.

Frankel has yet to decide where Ginger Punch, the highweight in the Phipps at 123 pounds, will next run.

The time was 1:42.37 for the 1o1/16 miles on the fast track. Golden Velvet got second, followed by Mistical Plan, Cowgirls Don't Cry, Moon Catcher, and Spectacular Malibu.

Earlier, Swanky, a 3-year-old trained by Frankel, suffered a fatal collapse in front of the grandstand after returning to be unsaddled following a sixth-place finish in his debut in the fifth race. The colt had a "cardiovascular collapse", according to Dr. Anthony Verderosa, the chief examining veterinarian.

* Tam Lin ($12.40) nosed out 3-5 favorite Cosmonaut to win the $78,250 Scottish Monk Stakes.