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Jockey Rafael Bejarano and Ginger Punch after winning the Ruffian Handicap
The $300,000 Ruffian Handicap (G1) is one of three Grade 1 events run on the opening Saturday of the Fall Championship Meeting at Belmont Park in New York. Originally a field of five older fillies and mares were entered in this 1 1/16 mile trip around one turn of the main track, but only four made the gate after Rahy's Appeal was scratched. Frank Stronach homebred Ginger Punch was sent off as the 3-4 favorite coming off 2 straight runaway wins in the First Flight at Belmont and the Go For Wand at Saratoga. In to challenge the Bobby Frankel trainee were 8-5 second choice Take D'Tour, winner of the Ogden Phipps in June, and 5-1 third choice Miss Shop, winner of the Personal Ensign. 14-1 outsider Teammate, winless since the Shuvee in May, rounded out the compact field.
Ginger Punch takes the lead over Teammate and Take D'Tour in the stretch
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 2 Ginger Punch Bejarano 3.50 2.10 - 3 Miss Shop Castellano 3.40 - 5 Teammate Velasquez - Winning Time: 1:40.25 $2 Exacta 2-3 10.60
Ginger Punch takes her walk down victory lane. Her jockey Rafael Bejarano said, "There were only four horses in the race. I was worried about (Take d'Tour). This horse likes to stay a little further behind the pace. I was happy when (Teammate) went up there, too. I tried to put her outside to track the speed. From the half-mile on, I had a lot of horse. She finished up fast."
Ginger Punch in the winner's circle with trainer Bobby Frankel on the left. Frankel said, "She's a nice filly. We'll see about the Breeders' Cup; she's not nominated. I don't why. It's not my job. Maybe we'll run her back in the Beldame. Look at her record. She could come back in three weeks. The Beldame is 22 days from today, and $600,000 for the Beldame is nothing to sneeze at. If you run her three to four weeks apart, she does great. I told (Rafael Bejarano) they were going to take hold of Teammate. She's the kind of filly that does everything right."
Ginger Punch heads back to the barn after the race.
Second place finisher Miss Shop in the paddock. Her jockey Javier Castellano said, "My filly ran very good. If the race was 1 1/8 miles, no one would have beaten her. She galloped out so strong after the wire. She's an honest filly; she always tries hard. I would like to meet Ginger Punch again at 1 1/8 miles."
Third place finisher Teammate in the post parade. 14-1 longest shot Teammate was quickest out of the gate, stalked the pace along the rail under jockey Cornelio Velasquez, but was outfinished in the stretch. She improved her record to 4 wins, 5 seconds, and 3 thirds in 20 career starts with earnings of $568,276 for owner Joseph Allen and trainer H. Allen Jerkens.
Fourth place finisher Take D'Tour in the post parade. Her trainer David Fawkes said, "Sometimes, when the put the blanket on her, she doesn't break real fast. She's done that before and run well. She just ran kind of flat today. If we decide to go to the Breeders' Cup, we won't run her until then. Plenty of horses have gone into the Distaff off worse races than that and run well."
Her jockey Eibar Coa said, "She was just flat today. She was very calm in the post parade, which I was happy about, but maybe it was a different sign. It just wasn't her today."
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