Stronach Stable’s Eclipse Award-winning mare Ginger Punch showed her championship class Friday at Churchill Downs by posting a 3 3/4-length victory over Leah’s Secret in the 23rd running of the $340,200 Louisville Stakes (Grade II).
Ridden by Rafael Bejarano and trained by Bobby Frankel, Ginger Punch covered the mile and a sixteenth in a driving rain over a track labeled “good” in 1:43.08. A 5-year-old daughter of Awesome Again out of the Bold Revenue mare Nappelon, Ginger Punch ran her record to 17-9-5-2 with earnings of $2,437,603.
It was the second win in the Louisville for Frankel and Bejarano. Frankel won the race in 2003 with You and Bejarano scored in 2006 with Oonagh Maccool.
Unforgotten, ridden by Robby Albarado, set the early pace with Ginger Punch rating just behind her on the outside. Leaving the backstretch, Bejarano gave Ginger Punch her cue and she quickly took command and never was seriously threatened in the run to the wire.
Ginger Punch, who sealed championship older filly and mare honors in 2007 by winning the Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Distaff (GI) at Monmouth Park in October, returned mutuels of $3, $2.60 and $2.10. Leah’s Secret returned $5.60 and $3.40, while Lear’s Princess, ridden by Eibar Coa, finished another 2 1/4 lengths back in third in the field of five and paid $2.80 to show.
Churchill Downs, the world’s most legendary racetrack, has conducted Thoroughbred racing and presented America’s greatest race, the Kentucky Derby, continuously since 1875. Located in Louisville, the flagship racetrack of Churchill Downs Incorporated (NASDAQ Global Select Market: CHDN) also operates Trackside at Churchill Downs, which offers year-round simulcast wagering at the historic track. Churchill Downs will conduct the 134th running of the Kentucky Derby on May 3, 2008. The track’s 2008 Spring Meet runs from April 26 through July 6. Churchill Downs has hosted the Breeders’ Cup World Championships a record six times. Information about Churchill Downs can be found on the Internet at www.churchilldowns.com.
POST-RACE QUOTES: THE LOUISVILLE STAKES
Rafael Bejarano (winning jockey, Ginger Punch) – “The first jump out of the gate, she was a little slow. We were supposed to have the lead. She likes to run on the lead. But it was OK and at the five-eighths I started to let her go and then just waited for her big run. Down the stretch, she saw water on the track and jumped, I imagine to protect herself. She was just reacting to the moment. She was OK.”
Bobby Frankel (winning trainer, Ginger Punch) – “She ran her race. Everything worked out well. I don't know what’s next; we’ll just have to look.”
Elliot Walden (vice president and racing manager of WinStar Farm, owner of Leah’s Secret, 2nd) – “We just got beat by a champion. She ran a very good race and a better filly beat her. We were pleased to see her come back. She ran so badly in Florida and to see her come back to herself, now it looks like we’re going to have a good year with her.”
Garrett Gomez (jockey, Leah’s Secret, 2nd) – “It set up exactly the way I wanted it to. The only bad race (Ginger Punch) has run she was on the lead. I thought if I could get her to make the lead early, I thought I might have a chance of beating her today. My filly ran a good race. The other mare ran the race she always runs.”
Eibar Coa (jockey, Lear’s Princess, 3rd) – “I had a good trip, it’s just that I wish they went a little faster than that. It was a bad situation for me. They were going to slow. There was nothing I could do but stay close. I was close but when they got going, they got away from me.”
Kiaran McLaughlin (trainer, Lear’s Princess, 3rd) – “I thought it was kind of a rough trip for us being that it went :50 for the half. It seemed like he had a lot of horse, was in tight and saving ground and then went a little bit wide. But they came home in :22 and change the last quarter, so it looked like maybe we were going to be third, no matter what.
“But it just looked like we had a little bit of trouble and not the perfect setup with the short field. It didn’t set up well for us, but the winner is a very nice filly, favored at 3-5 for a reason."