Churchill Downs release:
While only two races appear to remain in her racing career, trainer Buff Bradley believes champion Groupie Doll is poised to end her racing days in spectacular style.
The 5-year-old homebred daughter of Bowman’s Band tuned up for a run in next Saturday’s Grade II Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes at Keeneland with a four-furlong work in :48.20 Saturday at Churchill Downs.
The Keeneland race will be a final prep for Groupie Doll’s bid for a second consecutive victory in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint at seven furlongs on Saturday, Nov. 2 at Santa Anita.
Exercise rider Jada Schlenk was up as the reigning Eclipse Award Filly and Mare Sprint champion breezed over a fast track in fractional times of :13, :25 and :36.60 and galloped out five furlongs in 1:01.20.
The work ranked as the 11th-fastest of 66 at the distance on a busy morning at Churchill Downs.
“The work was very good,” Bradley said. “She galloped out good and strong all the way, and Jada said that she’s ready.”
The Keeneland race will be only the third start of the year for Groupie Doll, who is owned by a partnership that includes the trainer and his 82-year-old father, Fred Bradley, and William Hurst and Brent Burns. She spent the early part of the year on the Bradley family farm near Frankfort, Ky. after she seemed lethargic in her training early in the year in Florida.
Groupie Doll returned to competition with a third-place run in the Grade III Gardenia at Ellis Park in Henderson, Ky., a race she won as a 3-year-old in 2011, but returned to form earlier this month with a second consecutive victory in the Grade II Presque Isle Masters at Pennsylvania’s Presque Isle Downs. She established a record of 1:08.36 for six furlongs with a comfortable 1 ½-length victory over the track’s synthetic Tapeta surface.
As good as Groupie Doll has been over her past three seasons, Bradley sees daily evidence that his star is still developing and maturing.
“I think I see a lot more in her – maybe not in speed out here, but her mind,” he said. “Watching her walk around the shedrow, she comes out of the stall and she’s on it. She used to walk out of the stall and just wander down the shedrow. No big deal, she’s just another horse.
“Now she’s kind of like, ‘Hey, I’m the queen.’ She goes out with a presence. It’s good for me to see her mentally develop that part of it.”
The homebred mare and the best horse of Bradley’s career will not return to the family farm when this year ends. She will be a headline attraction in Keeneland’s November Breeding Stock Sale and will pass through the auction ring on the Tuesday after her Breeders’ Cup run.
Bradley acknowledged that it will be difficult to see Groupie Doll head to a new home. But the decision is necessary for the future of the family farm and all associated with it.
“It doesn’t mean that I’ll never think of her – I’ll think of her every day of my life when she sells,” Bradley said. “I’ll guarantee that I’ll go out there teary-eyed, and I’ll be sad and it’s gonna hurt, but it’s the only thing that we can do.”
Since the news of Groupie Doll’s impending appearance in the auction ring broke, Bradley has received emails from fans who question how the family could possibly part with a star that has done so much for their operation.
Another Bradley star – Grade I-winning gelding Brass Hat – was retired to the farm after he completed his career with 10 wins in 40 races and earnings of $2,173,561. But Bradley said he and his father would have faced the same decision with Brass Hat if he had the prospect of a career as a stallion. And they would have reached the same conclusion in Brass Hat’s case.
“They don’t know the whole story,” Bradley said of the critics. “They don’t know what I have to go through at the farm and with my family. I have to take care of them first. Groupie Doll is going to be taking care of the rest of my horses, basically.”
And now, Groupie Doll will attempt to take care of business next week at Keeneland and five weeks later in the Breeders’ Cup. She will take a career record of 10-4-3 in 19 races and earnings of $1,908,850 with her when she boards a van next Saturday for the hour-long ride to Keeneland and the penultimate start of her career in the Thoroughbred Club of America.