LOUISVILLE - On racing's biggest stage Groupie Doll came through in a big way.
A 4-year-old filly bred and raised by Fred Bradley and Buff Bradley of Frankfort and trained by Buff Bradley, Groupie Doll won the Humana Distaff (Grade I) for fillies and mares Saturday at Churchill Downs.
She did so in record-setting time, breaking the track record for seven furlongs and beating the winner of last year’s Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint by 7¼ lengths.
“I felt pretty confident that she’d run well today,” Buff Bradley said in a phone interview. “The question was the other horses coming back. When you’re in that kind of company they’ll run at you. It’s tough, and it’s tough every time.
“I felt she’d run tough, and I’m not really surprised she won. The surprising part is breaking the track record and doing it so impressively, winning by seven-and-a-quarter lengths.”
Groupie Doll won the race in a time of 1:20.44, breaking the record of 1:20.50 set exactly 11 years earlier by Alannan.
“It was wild and crazy after the race,” Bradley said. “Dad (Fred) started clapping at the eighth pole. She was running well and Rajiv Maragh, our jockey, let up at the wire. She was the woman.”
“She broke for me real well, which is what I wanted,” Maragh said in a release from Churchill. “She went right out and put me in good position. She wanted to go at the three-eighths pole, but the plan wasn’t to do that right then.
“But she was doing it so willingly, I didn’t want to take that away from her. When she moved she really took off. Coming down the stretch when I was so far ahead, I felt wonderful. I’m so glad to have a horse like this that makes you look so good as a rider.”
Saturday’s win was Groupie Doll’s second straight victory, having won the Vinery Madison Stakes (Grade I) on April 12 at Keeneland.
“She’s been doing very well,” Bradley said. “After her last race at Keeneland we knew she belonged here, and we knew she’d be around some tougher competition.
“She’s probably one the best filly sprinters in America right now. She could get moved up to the No. 1 spot for filly-mare sprinters,” he added.
“That’s pretty cool, and she was born and raised here in Franklin County. We never really thought about having another one after Brass Hat.”
Brass Hat won more than $2.1 million in his career before being retired by the Bradleys last year. Fred Bradley owned and bred Brass Hat, and Buff Bradley trained him.
Groupie Doll appears to be following in his footsteps.
“It’s not royal breeding, but she’s bred well enough to be a solid race horse, and that’s what we do,” Buff Bradley said. “We don’t go after big-dollar stallions, but we try to breed horses we know will be strong and sturdy and that come from running families. If the male and female are both runners, we feel like they can produce a horse that can run.”
Groupie Doll proved again Saturday she’s capable of that.
“Setting the track record is something in itself,” Bradley said. “Usually it’s the male horses who break track records.”
For the second straight race Groupie Doll ran wearing blinkers.
“I think she’s matured with them,” Bradley said. “She’s gotten better. I don’t know that they’ve helped her run faster, but she’s just focused a little more. I think they definitely have helped.”
Groupie Doll runs for the Bradleys and associates Carl Hurst and Brent Burns.
She’ll be coming back to Frankfort to take off for four to six weeks while decisions are made on what she’ll be running the rest of the year.
“A big credit goes to my team,” Bradley said. “There are a lot of Frankfort people who work with me at Churchill and on our farm. My wife Kim takes care of the farm, and she’ll take care of Groupie Doll when she’s there.
“We’ll probably turn her out with Brass Hat a little bit.”
Among the Frankfort residents on the team are assistant Maria Kabel, who’s worked for Bradley for 12-plus years, and assistant Matt Hebert and his brother Gabe Hebert, both Western Hills graduates.
“There are a lot of Frankfort connections, and there are a lot of good Frankfort people following her,” Bradley said. “She has a big Frankfort following.”
And it won’t be long before her fans know where Groupie Doll will be racing next.
“My dad and I have been doing this all our lives,” Bradley said. “I’m glad he’s able to reap the reward for this. Very few people find that kind of horse.
“There are trainers who go their whole lives looking for that one horse, and we stumbled upon two. We’re going to enjoy the ride.”