Bradleys living the dream – again – through Grade I winner Groupie Doll

Note: Due to space restrictions, a much shorter version of this story is running in Thursday’s paper. Read below for the full version.

Superstition has long been a regular presence around the nation’s backstretches, hence the reason many horsemen fear the jinx when others start heaping tons of praise upon a particular runner in their barn.

In the case of multiple Grade I winner Groupie Doll,  however, trainer and co-owner Buff Bradley gratefully relishes all the big-time talk directed at his  filly. For his family and their Frankfort-based operation, it is reminder that sometimes reality far surpasses their grandest expectations.

“I love to think about having the top female sprinter this year because I never thought I would be able to think that,” Bradley said. “It’s kind of amazing to look back and think the dream when I was here galloping horses here on the farm was just to have a stakes winner. So it’s really special to really be able to dream this way and think about it.”

With three consecutive victories including two Grade I triumphs under her belt, Groupie Doll indeed is regarded as the leader of the female sprint division – a status she looks to further solidify when she starts in Saturday’s Grade II, $200,000 Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes at Keeneland.

The six-furlong Thoroughbred Club of America is one five graded stakes set for Keeneland’s Saturday card  highlighted by the Grade I First Lady, Grade I Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity, and Grade I Shadwell Turf Mile.

It was during Keeneland’s Grade I Vinery Madison this April that Groupie Doll showed her connections – who famously campaigned the popular Grade I winning gelding Brass Hat – they had another homebred to brag on.

Smallish in her physical stature with a kind demeanor to match, Groupie Doll has built on her inner beast since taking the seven-furlong Madison  by three lengths over the likes of reigning female sprint champion Musical Romance. The chestnut daughter of Bowman’s Band made a case for the dirt being her best surface when she destroyed the field in the Grade I Humana Distaff at Churchill Downs by  7 1/4 lengths in track record time this May. After missing some time with a minor hock injury, Groupie Doll set herself up as the likely favorite fo the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint at Santa Anita Park next month with a facile triumph in the Grade II Presque Isle Downs Masters Stakes on September 8.

“It’s really living the dream to have these kind of hrorses that we’ve been blessed with. Brass Hat and Groupie Doll have made us,” said Bradley, who bred and co-owns Groupie Doll along with his father Fred. “Brass Hat got our name out there a bit and Groupie Doll is just confirming it.

“I feel like she is pretty tight after that last race. You always worry about them coming back in their next race and maybe bouncing a little bit but she has not shown any indication of something like that.”

The defining trait of the Bradley clan has long been their collective passion to raise and race their own horses. A good deal of patience and faith has been called upon to get the family through the rougher moments, but Groupie Doll is just the latest example of a bright spot coming from out of nowhere.

Deputy Doll, dam of Groupie Doll, had issues getting in foal at times and an undistinguished record in the breeding shed when she did. Groupie Doll broke that chain when she became just the second winner and lone offspring out of her dam to win a graded stakes.

That Groupie Doll has carried on her dam’s classy ways is even more impactful given that she is her last live foal. Deputy Doll passed away early last year when she and two other mares were killed after being struck by lightning.

“She was given to our van driver because she was hard to get in foal and….they weren’t five miles down the road from us,” Buff Bradley said.  “We were just sick about it because we were going to try and get her back. She was a nice mare, a classy mare. We gave a copule of her babies away, there was always something with them. But (Groupie Doll’s) the one who turned out to be the good one.”

Since getting her mental focus in line with her physical prowess, Groupie Doll has been virtually unbeatable.

A winner of three of her first four career starts,  including the Grade III Gardenia Stakes, Groupie Doll might have even more than seven victories to date had she gotten herself more involved in the running early on in some of her previous contests. For her outing in the Vinery Madison, Bradley added blinkers to Groupie Doll for the first time and she has yet to finish behind rivals since.

“Sometimes in quite a few of her races she has not been very interested early in the race and that’s cost her a couple of races,” Bradley said. ” But as sharp as she is, she has learned a little bit and the blinkers I think have helped her. You know, I don’t think she has to win (Saturday) to go on to the Breeders’ Cup but I’d love to see her win and if I was a betting man, she’d be the one I’d bet on.”