100k Ginger Punch Among Three Stakes Worth $275,000 in Purses Saturday at Gulfstream
HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – She already owns a stakes win on the grass, something two of her main rivals – Bellera and Kelsey’s Cross – haven’t done, so Midnight Soiree isn’t in Saturday’s $100,000 Ginger Punch at Gulfstream Park to check off that box.
Instead, trainer Lisa Lewis and owners Randy McBride, James W. Pickering, Terry Hookstra and Arcilla Hudgins are hoping to see their 5-year-old mare get rewarded after a frustrating string of seconds and thirds dating back nearly two years.
“For her sake, and her owners,” Lewis said. “I’ve got a whole group of people that are such nice people and they love the filly. We’re glad that she’s won a stake, but it would be nice to add a couple more to that list.”
The Ginger Punch for Florida-bred fillies and mares 3 and older, scheduled for 1 1/16 miles on the turf, is one of three stakes worth $275,000 in purses along with the $100,000 Soldier’s Dancer for state-bred 3-year-olds and up, also at 1 1/16 on the grass, and the $75,000 Game Face for 3-year-old fillies sprinting 6 ½ furlongs on the main track. First race post time is noon.
Midnight Soiree, a bay daughter of Grade 1-winning Maryland-bred millionaire Include, has gone winless in 10 starts since capturing the one-mile Martha Washington Stakes in July 2018 at Gulfstream, but her competitive streak has never wavered.
During her streak, Midnight Soiree owns four seconds and two thirds including a runner-up finish in last year’s Ginger Punch, which was rained off the turf. She has one second and one third in her only two tries on an off track.
“She’s been doing really well. She’s a very versatile filly; she runs turf, she runs dirt,” Lewis said. “She’s very consistent, she always really tries hard and runs well. It’s the third race back off a little freshening and she’s trained really well going into it so I’m excited to run her.”
The Ginger Punch will mark a return to the grass for Midnight Soiree, whose two starts this year have come over Gulfstream’s main track. She was second in an optional claiming allowance April 3, her first race in nearly six months, and then came up the rail to forge a short lead going the same distance April 30 before tiring to be third.
“Honestly I always wanted to get her back on the dirt. We train all winter at Payson Park and she had trained really well over the surface so we thought it was the time to try it,” Lewis said. “I’d love to get her two turns on the dirt, but it’s hard to get those races to fill. I thought those races she ran well, so I was happy with it, but this Florida-bred stake was always kind of our main goal.”
For her career, Midnight Soiree has banked nearly $200,000 in purses with 11 top-three finishes from 17 starts, and her record is 5-1-3-1 against fellow state-breds. Paco Lopez is named to ride from Post 2 at 122 pounds.
“I know everybody always says it, but she really is just one of those fillies that gives you everything all the time,” Lewis said. “It’s the same at the barn. She’s like, ‘I’m serious, I like my job and I’m going to go try my hardest.’ She’s a wonderful filly.”
Mathis Stable, Madaket Stables and Doheny Racing Stable’s Grade 3-winning 4-year-old Bellera stretches back out after ending a four-month break between starts by running third in Gulfstream’s seven-furlong Musical Romance May 16. She captured the Comely (G3) to end 2019 and Ladies Handicap to open 2020, both going 1 1/8 miles on the dirt at Aqueduct, but has never raced on the grass. Edgard Zayas has the call from Post 6 at topweight of 126 pounds.
Arindel homebred Onyx won the 7 ½-furlong Sharp Susan and one-mile Our Dear Peggy last summer and fall on the Gulfstream turf, but has been unable to recapture that form this year with a pair of off-the-board finishes in the one-mile Sanibel Island March 28 and 1 1/16-mile Honey Ryder May 2. The 3-year-old Dialed In filly does retain the services of jockey Emisael Jaramillo for the first time since their back-to-back stakes triumphs, breaking from Post 5.
Having been fed a steady diet of graded-stakes since last fall, Kelsey’s Cross drops and shortens up for the Ginger Punch. Co-owned by Sanford Bacon and trainer Patrick Biancone, Kelsey’s Cross hasn’t raced at less than 1 1/8 miles since her open allowance victory last September going a mile on the grass at Gulfstream.
“She’s a good filly, she tries hard, and we love her,” Biancone said. “She is a lovely animal to be around. We’re not worried about the distance.”
Kelsey’s Cross, by Grade 2 dirt winner Anthony’s Cross, is still seeking her first stakes victory having placed four times, twice in graded company – the Wonder Again (G3) last summer at Belmont Park in her third lifetime start, and the Hillsborough (G2) March 7 in Tampa.
Third in the one-mile Martha Washington at Gulfstream and the 1 3/16-mile Saratoga Oaks last summer, Kelsey’s Cross will be facing Florida-breds for just the second time and first since her maiden triumph at Gulfstream last May.
“She’s doing good and training good. We’re very happy with her,” Biancone said. “She was born in May, so she just turned 4 now and we hope to have a great year with her. She’s a very good filly. Now she’s coming to be 4 and she should be much more competitive.”
Luca Panici rides Kelsey’s Cross from Post 3.
Multiple stakes winners Starship Bonita and Picara; Raki, winner of the 7 ½-furlong Miss Gracie last fall at Gulfstream; Tampa turf stakes winner Crown and Sugar; Una Luna, second in a trio of stakes last summer and fall in South Florida; Bienville Street, twice stakes-placed at Gulfstream; and Hotty Toddy, Lady Panda and Red Curls complete the field. Liza Star and Crumb Bun are entered for main track only.
The Ginger Punch honors Stronach Stables’ Florida homebred who won 12 of 22 starts and more than $3 million in purses from 2006-08 and was named the champion older mare of 2007. Nine of her wins came in stakes, eight of them graded, including the Go for Wand (G1), Ruffian (G1) and Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) in 2007 and Ogden Phipps (G1), Go for Wand and Personal Ensign (G1) in 2008. She raced three times at Gulfstream, kicking off her final season with a victory in the Sunshine Millions Distaff.
Notes: Jockey Edgard Zayas had back-to-back winners Wednesday on Fast Catalina ($10.60) in Race 5 and Legal Deal ($13.80) in Race 6, and finished off his hat trick with He’s Incredible ($13.60) in Race 9. Trainer Monica McGoey sent out two high-priced winners, Classy of Course ($43.60) in Race 4 and Il Faraone ($24.80) in Race 7.
Gulfstream Park Press Release
Photo: Midnight Soiree. Credit: Coglianese Photos