Trainer Buff Bradley makes a point to listen to his gut when his horses tell him they’re doing well. The same is also true when he senses something is amiss – especially when it is not patently obvious.
While a thorough veterinary exam did not uncover any major ailments, Bradley has decided to ship newly-minted champion Groupie Doll back to his family’s Frankfort-based farm for turnout as he has been unhappy with her training at Gulfstream Park.
Groupie Doll, who was honored with the Eclipse Award for champion female sprinter on Saturday night, battled a minor infection earlier in January after returning from a month off at the Bradley’s farm but has had good blood work in recent weeks. Still, Bradley said the 5-year-old daughter of Bowman’s Band did not appear to be moving as comfortably over the track as usual.
Though Groupie Doll will get some extended time off, Bradley says the plan is still to race her this year with an eye on a returning for the Presque Isle Masters in September, the Thoroughbred Club of America at Keeneland in October and a title defense in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint at Santa Anita Park in November – the same trio she swept in 2012.
“The vet couldn’t really pinpoint the exact problem so he just said to give her some time,” Bradley, who co-owns Groupie Doll along with his father Fred and partners Carl Hurst and Brent Burns, said Wednesday. “We’re just thinking that last year’s campaign was probably a little more demanding than we originally thought and a month off wasn’t going to do it for her.
“All four of us are 100 percent wanting to race her if she’s going to be able to race. Right now don’t see any serious problem. Some people say you waste a year not breeding her when she’s at her most valuable right now but… we love to race and that’s what racing is about. I feel very confident if she’s 100 percent sound, I can bring her back and get her ready for the three fall races that she ran prior to the Cigar Mile.”
After Groupie Doll romped to victory in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint – her fifth consecutive win and third Grade I triumph of 2012 – her connections called an audible and tested her against males in the Grade I Cigar Mile at Aqueduct on November 24 where she was beaten just a short nose by 2011 Travers Stakes winner Stay Thirsty.
Though Bradley knows some will now question whether the chestnut mare got too knocked out from that gut wrenching Cigar Mile outing, he has no regrets about shipping in for the race given how strongly she came out of the Breeders’ Cup.
“I know how she was and how she was doing. Other people will second guess it more than myself,” Bradley said. “In this business, you really can’t second guess. You live and you learn and just because it happened to her doesn’t mean it will happen to the next one. And I don’t know that’s what happened to her.
“I don’t know that she might have done something outside at the farm and probably some people will second guess that and say maybe I shouldn’t have turned her out (after the race), maybe I should have kept her in training. So I think if you second guess, you’re second guessing everything you might do if it’s right or wrong. I don’t have any regrets going up there and trying it. I don’t think (we were asking too much). We let the horse tell us what to do.”
Disappointing as the current setback may be, Bradley says having his mare already minted as a champion is a perfect salve.
“The good thing about my father and our partners is we’re comfortable with the decisions we made and it doesn’t take away from what we had last year and with the Eclipse Awards,” Bradley said. “But I think we’re doing the best thing for her. When you run those kind of races you better be 110 percent.”