Courtesy of Churchill Downs and NYRA publicity teams:
The surroundings are a good bit different than those at her former home at Churchill Downs, but reigning Eclipse Award Filly & Mare Sprint champion Groupie Doll has resumed her training in New York, and trainer Buff Bradley and other familiar faces are close by.
New owner Mandy Pope announced Friday that Groupie Doll, a two-time winner of the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint would continue her racing career and that her next target would be a run against males in the Grade I Cigar Mile at Aqueduct on Nov. 30.
Groupie Doll was purchased by Pope last Wednesday for $3.1 million at Keeneland’s November breeding stock sale and it was widely assumed then that she would join her new owner’s ever-growing collection of star broodmares at her Whisper Hill Farm. That group is currently headed by 2011 Horse of the Year Havre de Grace, a $10 million purchase by Pope in the 2012 Fasig-Tipton November sale.
A key part of Friday’s announcement on the ongoing racing career of Groupie Doll was that Bradley, the co-breeder, former co-owner and trainer who also helped raise the daughter of Bowman’s Band at his family’s farm near Frankfort, Ky., would continue to train the champion.
Bradley has gone to Belmont Park for that task, and has taken regular exercise rider Jada Schlenk and assistant trainer Matt Hebert, who also serves as Groupie Doll’s groom, with him.
“We’re pretty excited, and very pleased that Mandy wanted us to continue on with her,” Bradley said by telephone from New York.
Bradley said the conversations that led to Pope’s decision to keep Groupie Doll in training started soon after the gavel came down at Keeneland, just four days after her second Breeders’ Cup triumph.
“I talked to her about Groupie Doll and how she was doing,” Bradley said. “It was kind of hard for me to tell at that point because I hadn’t done anything but walk her since we came back from the Breeders’ Cup, but her legs felt great and I knew she was feeling well, so I told her that continuing to race her could be a thought.”
In making that suggestion during his first meeting with Pope, Bradley put in a plug for his team to continue to be involved should Groupie Doll’s racing career be extended.
“I told her that I’d love to train her,” he said. “I’d been with her from day one. And I told her that, if it was possible, we would love to take her to New York for her.
“She indicated to me at that time that if Groupie Doll was going to remain in training, that I would be the trainer-of-record. So I felt pretty good after that day. She was very nice and has made me feel very much a part of the team.”
Following her win in last year’s renewal of that Breeders’ Cup race, Groupie Doll ended her championship campaign in the Cigar Mile, where she lost by a nose to Repole Stable’s Grade I winner Stay Thirsty.
In the press release announcing the new plans for Groupie Doll, Pope indicated there could be more races beyond the Cigar Mile. But Bradley said his conversation with the 5-year-old mare’s new owner has not gone beyond Nov. 30.
So Bradley will be focused on the progress of Groupie Doll in New York in the coming days as she continues a campaign as a 5-year-old that, so far, includes only four races. But he’ll be doing so while keeping an eye on what’s happening with his stable at Churchill Downs and, of course, on the farm owned by his father, Fred Bradley, and the family.
“I’ll fly back home during the next three weeks, just to check on things there,” Bradley said. “I told her (Pope) that I’d be happy to do whatever she wanted me to do with Groupie Doll and take her wherever she wanted me to take her. This mare’s been very good to me, and I just appreciate the opportunity she’s given me to continue to go along with her.”
Groupie Doll and her regular rider, Rajiv Maragh, will be competing for a $1 million gross purse in the Cigar Mile by virtue of a special purse incentive provided by the New York Racing Association, Inc. for Breeders’ Cup winners. Also going for the enhanced $1 million purse will be Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Goldencents, while Alpha, Verrazano and Capo Bastone would be competing for a secondary incentive that offers a gross purse of $750,000 to Grade I winners. Others looking at the Cigar Mile include Gentlemen’s Bet, third in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, and stakes winner Forty Tales.