Some of the most emotionally taxing moments of trainer Buff Bradley’s life concluded with the most exceptional scenario he and his family could have fathomed.
Champion Groupie Doll, the two-time Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint heroine who was foaled, raised and campaigned by Fred and Buff Bradley, found a spectacular new home Wednesday afternoon when she sold to Mandy Pope’s Whisper Hill Farm for $3.1 million during the Keeneland November Breeding Stock sale.
The decision to sell Groupie Doll was made in the weeks before she captured the Filly & Mare Sprint for a second consecutive year, and was one the Bradleys and their partners agonized over. While the 5-year-old daughter of Bowman’s Band was literally considered part of the family, the financial reality was that the return they could get on her would keep the Bradley’s Frankfort-based operation going for years to come and allow them all to continue investing in racing for the foreseeable future.
With Buff Bradley seated alongside his father Fred in the outer seats of the sales pavilion, they watched as Pope won a protracted battle that saw the bidding open at $500,000 and then celebrated when they realized their homebred mare would be residing just down the road at T. Wayne Sweezey’s Timber Town Stables in Lexington, joining Pope’s broodmare band that includes 2011 Horse of the Year Havre de Grace and 2011 Kentucky Oaks winner Plum Pretty.
“This is the best possible ending for Mandy to get her,” an emotional Buff Bradley said. “We are so thrilled she got her. She’s building up a big, strong broodmare band so we’re happy about that.
“We know she’s going to a place just down the road and she said we could come see her. That will make (exercise rider) Jade (Schlenk) and (groom) Matt Herbert happy and the whole family. Everybody was thrilled about that.”
A cheer went up from the Bradley contingent once the bidding hit $2.9 million, with every louder voices heard when the tote board flashed $3 million.
Unfazed by the commotion around her, including the pack of about 40-50 onlookers that surrounded Barn 14 before she headed to the pavilion, Groupie Doll inspired Pope to keep stretching her wallet and outlast representatives of Town and Country Farm.
“She was gorgeous,” Pope said. “She’s a champion, maybe a champion two years in a row. She was calm and cool, nothing ruffled her. She just sits there royally taking everything in stride like ‘Okay, I’m here.”
Pope said her plans were to retire Groupie Doll but Bradley did make a pitch to Pope about racing her one more time in the Grade I Cigar Mile at Aqueduct on November 30 – a race she was second by a nose in last year.
“I have to have her checked out thoroughly. Obviously we wouldn’t want to take any undo chances with her,” Pope said.
Consigned by Tom Evans’ Trackside Farm, Groupie Doll has 11 wins from 21 career starts with $2,478,850 in earnings. She earned the 2012 Eclipse Award for champion female sprinter, the first ever champion raised by the Bradleys.