Thank goodness for modern technology.
There was no way the naked eye could separate Ginger Punch and Lemon Drop Mom as they crossed the finish line during the 61st running of the Personal Ensign Friday at Saratoga Race Course.
Many in the crowd of 22,988 believed that it was Lemon Drop Mom, on the inside, who nailed down the victory, but the photo showed Ginger Punch’s last bob of her head was the difference in the $400,000 Grade I stakes for fillies and mares over a mile and a quarter.
“I thought she got beat, to be honest,” said Ginger Punch trainer Bobby Frankel. “She got the perfect bob.”
Although Ginger Punch got free to the outside much sooner than in her last race, the Go For Wand here July 26, it was almost the same trip. Just as she was in the Go For Wand, Ginger Punch was trapped along the rail early, but she was able to clear to the outside well before the stretch, and dueled Lemon Drop Mom throughout the final eighth of a mile.
In the Go For Wand, she didn’t get free until splitting two horses down the stretch, and she eventually pulled away by one and a quarter lengths.
This finish was quite different, although it was the same winning result.
“As soon as she got to the quarter-pole, I knew she had a chance,” said Frankel. “But at the end, I thought she got beat. I thought she had a great trip, though. She was right where we wanted her to be. She got to the outside early enough, and I thought the distance was no problem for her. By the way Rafael [jockey Rafael Bejarano] was putting her in a drive, I thought she had a lot to do.”
Frankel was more than a bit concerned about his filly when he saddled her in the paddock.
“Today and in her last race, she had to overcome a lot of things. She’s in heat, and I was a nervous wreck,” Frankel said. “When I saw her in the paddock, she was [acting] as if she was ready to be bred.”
HAS WON FOUR STRAIGHT
Ginger Punch stretched her winning streak to four straight stakes races. She has won five of six races this year, with her only setback a third-place finish in the Apple Bloom Handicap in April.
Ginger Punch’s impressive resume now includes 12 wins, five seconds and two thirds in 20
“For me, she is a super filly,” said Bejarano. “She tries all the time. As soon as I got to the turn, she was kind of tired, but as soon as she saw the other filly pass me in the final furlong, she kept coming back again. This race was very close and very scary. The other horse tried hard, too, but my horse doesn’t quit. She runs ‘til the end.”
Lemon Drop Mom, ridden by Jose Caraballo, finished second for the second consecutive race. She was also second in the Delaware Handicap last month. Her last win was in the $55,000 Winter Melody at Delaware in May.
“I thought we won,” said Lemon Drop Mom trainer Tim Ritchey. “It came down to a head bob. She ran the best race of her career against a champion. She just keeps moving forward, after running in minor stakes, up to graded stakes.”
“It was close, very close, and I was hoping it went my way,” said Caraballo. “I had a good trip, and she was there the whole time. She responded, but I just got beat by a nice filly.”
Ginger Punch paid $3.30, $2.70 and $2.10. Lemon Drop Mom paid $5.60 and $2.90, while Unbridled Belle, Ramon Dominguez up, was third and paid $2.10.
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