LEXINGTON – Groupie Doll stormed home 6 1/2 lengths in front to win the $200,000 Grade II Thoroughbred Club of America at Keeneland on Saturday.
The “Win and You’re In” champion series race waived the four-year-old’s entry fee, granted a $10,000 travel stipend and guaranteed her placement in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint in Santa Anita, Calif., Nov. 3.
But all of that meant little to trainer/owner Buff Bradley of Frankfort. He was more pleased with Groupie Doll winning in front of family and friends who made the short drive to Lexington.
“We were talking about it as we got the trophy,” Bradley said looking up into the stands, “but I thought more about winning here at Keeneland today, it is great. It is special to win in front of all these people. A lot of them are from Frankfort or close to here.”
Bradley raised Groupie Doll on his Indian Ridge Farm in Frankfort and co-owns her with his father, Fred, Carl Hurst and William Burns.
The daughter of Bowman’s Band has now won four straight graded races, including an earlier win at Keeneland in the Grade 1 Vinery Madison on April 12, the Grade 1 Humana Distaff on Kentucky Derby day at Churchill Downs and the Grade 2 Presque Isle Downs Masters Stakes on Sept. 8.
History says she’ll win a fifth consecutive. The last three horses that won the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare as champion Female Sprinter, also took both the Thoroughbred Club of America and the Masters Stakes.
But Saturday’s win at Keeneland for Groupie Doll looked like it almost wasn’t going to happen. At the start of the race, Honey Chile led early, blazing through the first quarter at :22 3/5, while Groupie Doll was fifth, six lengths off the lead.
At the top of the stretch, jockey Rajiv Maragh was caught behind a wall of four fading horses.
“I had a ton of horse. I was just being patient. I just waited for the opening,” Maragh said. “I could have gone outside early but I would have had to go real wide so I was just patient and knew she was going to give me her run when it opened up and she sure did.”
Groupie Doll found running room and burst through with ease under a hand ride by Maragh in the six-furlong Polytrack sprint in 1:09.21.
Strike the Moon edged Honey Chile for second by a half-length, then it was another 1 1/2 lengths back to Zermatt, who was followed by Mega Dream, Newstouse, Sally Sally, Emma’s Encore and Giant Sensation.
“I just thought once she got through, she would probably be ready,” Bradley said. “She got through at the top of the stretch and I knew she was gone. I was just anxious. Rajiv wasn’t anxious, but I was. I wanted her to go ahead and get to the lead.”
The win placed Groupie Doll’s career earnings over a million with $1,047,850. Now, Bradley and his team will look ahead to the Breeders’ Cup on Nov. 3 and possibly doubling that amount.
The Filly & Mare Sprint is seven furlongs and on a dirt track, which are both elements Bradley accepts with open arms. Last week, he expressed concern about Groupie Doll handling six furlongs, compared to going longer.
“I know she has done very well on the synthetics, but I really think she does better on the dirt,” Bradley said. “I still feel that way… I’m looking forward to it being a little bit longer, because she knows how to just keep going.”
And while Groupie Doll has cemented herself as a favorite for the Breeders’ Cup, Bradley said she knows nothing of pressure.
“We got her up and brought her over here at 8 o’clock this morning and she laid down and was resting,” he said. “One thing that helps this filly is she is very classy and she knows how to relax. It doesn’t matter where she goes she just shows class.
“We got to keep it going.”