As the Breeders’ Cup weekend comes closer, one of the stars whose background and future will draw the heaviest focus is the precocious Groupie Doll.
A rangy chestnut whose winning streak reached four when she powered through the Keeneland stretch to win the Grade II Thoroughbred Club of America on Saturday, Oct. 6, Groupie Doll will be the center of attention when female sprinters gather at Santa Anita in early November for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint.
She has been dominant in her four graded stakes wins in succession.
The four-year-old Amazon was last seen stampeding past the leaders and powering her way to a 6 1/2 length win at Keeneland Race Course in Kentucky. Jockey Rajiv Maragh guided her move through traffic as the thoroughbreds neared the eighth pole. Once she moved to the front, Groupie Doll increased her advantage without much apparent effort.
Arriving to the Thoroughbred Club of America race on the back of three straight stakes wins, Groupie Doll certainly had impressed the Keeneland bettors that Saturday. She was one of the bobtailed meet’s shortest favorites, going off at 2-5 and paying her many backers mutuels of only $2.80, $2.20, and $2.10.
Her growing winning streak began in the Grade I Madison Stakes at Keeneland. It was a full four months later when trainer/owner Buff Bradley gave her another test in the Humana Distaff Stakes.
Bradley was rewarded with a second straight victory as his bronze-colored bulldozer had left Churchill Downs with a new track record, breaking a mark that had stood for some time.
Four months later, Bradley took his well-rested speedster to Presque Isle Downs on Sept. 8 for the $400,000 Grade II Masters.
The Masters proved to be Groupie Doll’s third straight win. By then, it had become clear Bradley had the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint on his pupil’s schedule.
That brought the pair to Keeneland . . . and the Grade III Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes. The six-furlong sprint was run around one turn. Maragh stayed close to the honest pace. But he was bound to the rail by others just to his outside.
The leaders kept bobbing along, keeping Groupie Doll bottled up and pinched along the rail.
Finally, just after the race leaders got to the straightaway, Maragh found the crease he was searching for. He sent Groupie Doll to an open lane and she almost flew to the lead.
In the last sixteenth of a mile her margin quickly went from three lengths to five lengths to a race-winning 6 1/2 lengths.
Most of those in the crowd of just above 22,000 people went back to the mutuel windows to collect on their wagers made on the 2-5 favorite.
Maragh met the press and those with television cameras to give his version of what had just happened.
“I had a ton of horse. I was just being patient and waiting for the opening. 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.”
Four straight stakes wins.
The $1 million Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint due in three weeks.
“I feel like right now, she’s tough,” said trainer Bradley . “I think one thing that helps this filly is she is very classy and knows how to relax. It doesn’t matter where she goes.”
Bradley didn’t have to mention her last four graded stakes wins that have been won by a combined 20 1/2 lengths.
He knew his itinerary would include Santa Anita on Nov. 3.
He knew most of the competition would be staring silently his way with a jaundiced eye. But none of them would be conceding anything to the probable favorite. Owners and trainers don’t come from Europe with blood thinned by too much worry about the competition.
Groupie Doll now has winnings of $1,047,850. She might just reach close to the heights many of those on her family tree — Northern Dancer, Nijinsky, Mr. Prospector, Raise A Native, Bold Ruler, Ribot, Native Dancer, and Chris Evert — have seen before.
Northern Dancer appears three times as the sire of one of her grandfathers or great grandfathers. And according to many horsemen in this country, Northern Dancer is the most influential sire of all-time.
According to Bradley, “I’ll give her a couple of easy halves before the Breeders’ Cup with the final work coming at Santa Anita.”
Thoroughbreds don’t generally maintain a rare winning form for a whole season. And Groupie Doll had finished second twice and third once this year before reeling off her eye-popping win streak.
Bradley hasn’t raced her at Santa Anita. He will in the Filly & Mare Sprint. And he will be looking for five in a row when he places the saddle and blinkers on the back of the russet-colored Groupie Doll.