LEXINGTON — All signs pointed to a Groupie Doll victory.
But it was Judy the Beauty and jockey John Velazquez who came in first in Keeneland’s Grade II $200,000 Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes Saturday, outrunning the 5-year-old champion mare down the stretch.
The 4-year-old Ghostzapper mare completed the six-furlong sprint in 1:09 1/5 and a length in front of Gypsy Robin in second while defending champion Groupie Doll was third by three-fourths of a length.
“She warmed up great and got going right out of the gate,” said Buff Bradley, who is Groupie Doll’s trainer and co-owner along with his father Fred Bradley, Carl Hurst and Brent Burns. “Everything was good. He said even turning for home he thought he was going to win it. She just got outrun down the lane.”
Judy the Beauty, owned and trained by Wesley Ward, improves to a perfect three-for-three on Keeneland’s polytrack surface.
Gypsy Robin, ridden by Garrett Gomez, set the early pace on a fast track going through splits of :22 3/5 and :45 4/5 while Livi Makenzie chased her from the outside. Groupie Doll, the 1-2 favorite, moved three wide from fourth to third trailing Livi Makenzie’s flank before making her run into the turn.
Coming off the turn, Judy the Beauty joined Groupie Doll and jockey Rajiv Maragh on the outside as the two moved past Livi Makenzie and drew even with Gypsy Robin.
Groupie Doll, bred and raised at the Bradleys’ Indian Ridge farm in Franklin County, stalled in the stretch while Judy the Beauty powered forward.
“She looked like she was in a good position to win turning for home,” Maragh said. “When I asked her to run, she tried. The other horse just out finished her at the end.”
Gypsy Robin held onto second as Groupie Doll took third. It was another 2 ¾ lengths back to Purely Hot, followed by Tanglewood Tale and Livi Makenzie.
“She did really great,” Ward said of Judy the Beauty, who earned her first graded stakes victory. “She loves Keeneland. She does really well here. We knew she was going to run a big race. Groupie Doll is a champion; you never know when she’s going to fire her best shot. Today, we fired ours.”
Judy the Beauty also earned an all-expenses paid berth in the 7-furlong Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint because of a victory in a “Win and You’re In” Breeders’ Cup Challenge race.
Ward said he’d keep Judy the Beauty at Keeneland until a few days before the Breeders’ Cup Nov. 2 at Santa Anita Park in Los Angeles before shipping her to California.
“She relishes this place and does so well,” Ward said. “She is so relaxed. I think that’s the best way to do it. Today she came through and ran a big race.”
Bradley said the race doesn’t change his mind in sending Groupie Doll as well.
For those who think his mare has lost a step after Saturday’s race, Bradley said he’s not worried.
“I don’t believe that at all,” he said. “She ran hard today and it looked like she ran hard. She will come back and fight the next one. I feel pretty confident in her and Rajiv does too. We don’t think she liked it too much out there. That’s OK. We feel like we had a good trip, but just got outrun.”
The mare out of Deputy Doll by Bowman’s Band has followed the same path as last year when she won the Breeders’ Cup and was later named the Eclipse Award Sprinter of the Year.
“I was telling my partners, it’s unfortunate,” Bradley said. “She’s won on this track, she’s done well at this track, but I don’t think this is her best surface and it’s six furlongs,” which is a furlong shorter than her preferred distance.
Judy the Beauty, who was bred in Ontario by Adena Springs, paid $8.40 to win, $4.40 to place and $2.10 to show as the 3-1 second choice.
Gypsy Robin returned $4.80 and $2.20. Groupie Doll paid $2.10 to show.