Those who said Groupie Doll had lost a step from last year are now nowhere to be found.
That’s because the 5-year-old mare fought her way to a half-length victory over Judy the Beauty in 1:20.75, becoming the first to repeat in the grade I $1 million Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint Saturday at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif.
“Where are they now?” asked trainer Buff Bradley of the naysayers. “Wish I could see them there. I’ve been touting her as being as well or better than she was last year. Everything was going great and she proved it on race day.”
The daughter of Bowman’s Band, who was bred by Bradley and his 82-year-old father, Fred, at their Indian Ridge Farm in western Franklin County, will be sold Wednesday at Keeneland’s November Breeding Stock Sale.
Although Groupie Doll didn’t romp by 4 ½ lengths as an odds-on favorite like last year, the mare nearly duplicated her time finishing just three-hundredths of a second slower.
Groupie Doll, who was the lukewarm favorite, picked up some doubters after Bradley gave her time off in late winter because he saw something was off with her while training in Florida.
She returned to racing in August at Ellis Park where she finished third in the mile Gardenia Stakes. She followed the loss by setting a track record in taking the Presque Isle Masters over Judy the Beauty over a synthetic track. Then in the Thoroughbred Club of America on Keeneland’s polytrack, the mare faded to third as Judy the Beauty claimed first-place.
Bradley, who co-owns the mare with his father and longtime clients Brent Burns and Carl Hurst, never lost faith insisting the 7-furlong sprint on the dirt was her best distance and surface.
“It’s amazing really to have a horse of this caliber and to keep them going each year and bring them back,” Bradley said. “I have to give the credit to my family and my team, and my partners. They were behind me with what we did and everybody did great.”
Groupie Doll was fifth early as Sweet Lulu led the field into the first turn. But the chestnut mare loomed confidently with jockey Rajiv Maragh as the early leaders began to fade.
Maragh advanced the mare to third on the outside alongside Teddy’s Promise and Sweet Lulu, and Groupie Doll took the lead turning for home.
“Rajiv knew she was going to win it,” Bradley said. “She was game all the way. We knew on the backside that she going to run a big race. Where she was at that point of the race, he wasn’t asking her to be there.”
Rival Judy the Beauty and Dance Star inched closer to Groupie Doll late in the stretch, but couldn’t catch her as she improved to 11-4-4 in 21 starts with $2,478,850 in lifetime earnings.
Judy the Beauty was second, followed by Dance Card and Summer Applause. Completing the order were Sweet Lulu, Dance to Bristol, Great Hot, Teddy’s Promise, Book Review, Renee’s Titan, Ismene and Starship Truffles.
Groupie Doll paid $8, $4.60 and $3.40 across the board. Judy the Beauty returned $9.20 and $5.40, while Dance Card paid $4.80 to show.
Bradley said after the victory he immediately called his father, who was too ill to travel and who watched the race at Beef O’ Brady’s with Buff’s wife, Kim, and three children.
“It’s very special mostly since we did it with her since day one,” Bradley said. “We planned the mating, bred her, pulled her out of her mother, raised her, it says a lot about everyone who has been with her. That includes my family, my wife, my kids. When she was at the farm, they took care of her and I didn’t try to tell them how to take care of her because they know what to do. My help at the track, Maria (Kabel), Matt (Hebert), Jada (Schlenk), they are just great. I have to thank them.”
Bradley said he’s holding off celebrating until he’s back in Frankfort with his family later today.
As for Groupie Doll, the mare flew from California to Churchill Downs early this morning, where she will stay until she is shipped to Keeneland Monday morning in preparation for the sale Wednesday.
Winning the Breeders’ Cup a second time makes it even tougher to say goodbye, Bradley said.
“It’s a big bonus for us that she’s going out a winner,” he said. “But it’s going to be a very emotional day and really tough for my team and family. We knew that’s what we had to do and what we have to do. We want to stay in this game and move forward. We know she’s going to be well cared for with the kind of money she is going to bring.”