When favorite Groupie Doll races Saturday in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint, there will be $1 million on the line.
It’s a lot of money for Buff Bradley, a small Frankfort farm owner, breeder and trainer. A sum that could pay for his three kids’ college educations, daughters Kory, 17, Jett, 9 and son Drew, 13, or could go into a new barn at Indian Ridge Farm.
But even the thought of riches hasn’t changed Bradley in the least. Last Saturday, he missed shipping Groupie Doll to Santa Anita, Calif., because he was watching his daughter Jett’s state cross country meet in Lexington. And on the Wednesday before, Bradley was in his Bondurant Middle School T-shirt and sweats, running to each mile marker cheering on Jett.
His support for his family and the fact he pulled the $1,047,850 earnings winner Groupie Doll out of her dam, Deputy Doll, with his own two hands five years ago is inspiring middle class families to believe that anything is possible.
“I think it is very special for us to have a horse like this that we can campaign,” Bradley said. “We’re very proud of her. We’re proud to have bred her, foaled her and raised her from the very start. I think it’s very good for our sport and business.
“I think people realize you don’t have to be a multi-millionaire to do this. You don’t have to be big in the game to do it. We really try hard with what we’ve got and try to do everything right. We hope that the time, money, effort we put into it will repay us.
“This business does take you away from your family, you’re gone a lot, but I do trust my team. My big thing is having the very best people working for me every day. I don’t get nervous about that, so I can go see my children for whatever they may be doing.”
So while Groupie Doll flew out of Louisville last Saturday, Bradley didn’t follow until Thursday. The four-year-old filly was in the care of Matt Hebert, a graduate of Western Hills, assistant trainer Maria Kabel and exercise rider Jada Schlenk.
Bradley, who co-owns Groupie Doll with his father, Fred, and long-time partners Carl Hurst and Brent Burns, said he was able to watch the filly’s workouts via HRTV shortly after she worked and received updates on her progress “several times a day.”
“However, I told them, ‘At feeding time at that time out there, I’ll be going to bed, so don’t you go calling me,’” Bradley said. “I’m not nervous at all. The people who are out there have worked with me for several years. I’m very confident in them and they know exactly what I want.
“Just watching everything and seeing what I see on TV, everything looks good. Her workout was very easy. She is going very comfortably over the track. The exercise rider told me today that she thought she felt great, that she really liked the track and it felt very cushiony to her.”
Bradley said both Hebert and Kabel confirmed that the filly is doing better in California than she was at home in Frankfort.
“I said, ‘How can she be doing better out there? I thought she was doing great here,’” Bradley said. “A little more hyped up, a little more on her toes, like let’s do something. To get that caliber of a horse, I think they know. There’s a lot of pictures taken, there’s a lot of cameras going off around her. I think she knows she’s out there to show how special she really is.”
Groupie Doll, a perfect 4-for-4 with blinkers on and 8-for-15 lifetime, is coming off a pair of Grade 2 victories, an impressive 6 1/2 length win in the Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes at Keeneland and a 3 3/4 romp in the Presque Isle Downs Masters Stakes in Erie, Pa.
She followed the same path as the last three victors of the seven-furlong Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint and eventual Eclipse Award Female Sprinter by winning the TCA and Masters Stakes.
“I think she’s peaking at the right time,” Bradley said of the filly ridden by jockey Rajiv Maragh. “Her last race was so impressive. She won without much encouraging at all. I think we’ve got her really happy at the right time.”
Groupie Doll, the early 1-1 favorite, will break from the No. 9 spot just outside of last year’s race winner, Musical Romance.
“We were very pleased with the No. 9,” Bradley said. “The farther out she is, the better. We really didn’t want to be on the inside. If you don’t break well, you can get bottled up.”
Also to Groupie Doll’s inside is Grade 2 Gallant Bloom Handicap winner Dust and Diamonds.
“One probably coming into form at the right time is Dust and Diamonds,” Bradley said. “They all concern me, but she seems like she’s getting better at the right time. Musical Romance, too of course.”
Post-time for the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint is 3:35 p.m. Eastern time, televised on the NBC Sports Network.
Filly & Mare
1. Teddy’s Promise (20-1)
2. Belle of the Hall (20-1)
3. Dust and Diamonds (9-2)
4. Strike the Moon (30-1)
5. Rumor (20-1)
6. Turbulent Descent (5-1)
7. Great Hot (30-1)
8. Musical Romance (4-1)
9. Groupie Doll (1-1)
10. Switch (12-1)
Emily Patton: (502) 227-4556 EXT 264. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @pemily