08/21/2008 11:00PM

Ginger Punch tries 10 furlongs

Barbara D. Livingston
The only real issue facing Ginger Punch in the Personal Ensign is the distance.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - From all indications, Ginger Punch has rounded back to the championship form that earned her an Eclipse Award in the distaff division in 2007, and she is clearly the class of the field for Friday's $400,000 Personal Ensign Stakes. Add the fact that the Personal Ensign will be decided under allowance, not handicap, conditions, and it would appear that only something out of the ordinary can prevent Ginger Punch from notching her fourth straight victory and third consecutive Grade 1 win.

Trainer Bobby Frankel entered Spring Waltz along with Ginger Punch for the 1 1/4-mile Personal Ensign. Both mares are owned by Frank Stronach, and barring any unforeseen issues, only Ginger Punch will start.

"I entered Spring Waltz in case something happens to Ginger Punch," Frankel said. "Otherwise, Spring Waltz will run in the Ruffian."

Ginger Punch overcame an extremely eventful trip to successfully defend her title in the Grade 1 Go for Wand earlier in the meet, eventually edging clear to a 1 1/4-length victory over Copper State after being boxed in and steadied repeatedly from tight quarters around the turn. In her previous start, Ginger Punch encountered no such obstacles en route to a 7 3/4-length triumph in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps Handicap at Belmont.

Ginger Punch carried 123 pounds to victory in the Phipps and 124 in the Go for Wand, but will have to tote only 122 pounds under the allowance conditions of the Personal Ensign.

"To be honest, I didn't even realize this race was run under allowance conditions until a couple of days ago," Frankel admitted. "Naturally, I'm happy about that. Otherwise, she probably would have had to carry 125 if it was a handicap."

The only real issue facing Ginger Punch in the Personal Ensign is the distance, as she's never started beyond 1 1/8 miles in her career.

"Who knows if a mile and one-quarter is a concern for her," Frankel said. "It's probably a concern for all the rest of them, too. I wouldn't think it should be a problem for her. Not the way she runs and the way she finishes in her races."

Frankel also is quite pleased with his post-position draw, with Ginger Punch breaking from post 5 in a six-horse field. She had the rail for the Go for Wand, a post that ultimately led to much of her traffic issues.

"From this spot, she should be able to get a good position just off the pace," Frankel said. "Hopefully, she won't get the same trip she had last time."

Rider Rafael Bejarano will again take his regular seat aboard the champ.

Trainer Todd Pletcher is hoping Unbridled Belle has a little better luck than she had in the 2007 Personal Ensign, where she finished second as the 8-5 favorite behind Miss Shop following an awkward beginning. Unbridled Belle, a 5-year-old daughter of Broken Vow, rebounded from that performance to win the Grade 1 Beldame before finishing a distant fifth behind Ginger Punch in the Breeders' Cup Distaff.

Unbridled Belle has started just twice this season, following an easy victory in the Grade 3 Obeah with a wide-running third-place effort in the 1 1/4-mile Delaware Handicap.

"She ran better than I thought she would in Delaware, considering she froze and fell over once in the paddock," Pletcher said. "She really wasn't herself that day. Obviously, this isn't the ideal spot with Ginger Punch carrying 122 pounds, but it's the race we've been pointing for, and the distance suits us well."

Lemon Drop Mom set a contested pace and held off Unbridled Belle for second money behind Hystericalady in the Delaware Handicap and will likely prove the one to catch again Friday.

Indescribable finished third after encountering some trouble of her own in the Go for Wand, her first try against Grade 1 opposition.