Champion mare Groupie Doll ready for toughest test yet

awincze@herald-leader.comNovember 27, 2013 

Breeders Cup Filly  Mare Sprint Horse Racing

Jockey Rajiv Maragh rode Groupie Doll to a second consecutive victory in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint at Santa Anita Park. Groupie Doll's last race will likely come in the Grade III Hurricane Bertie at Gulfstream on Feb. 9.



    At Aqueduct, Ozone Park, N.Y.

    When: 3:20 p.m. Saturday

    TV: TVG

The easy play for both the new and old connections of champion Groupie Doll would have been to take the fairy tale results the 5-year-old mare delivered earlier this month and let them stand as her career finale.

Just as trainer and co-breeder Buff Bradley insisted his girl was dead right leading up to her second consecutive Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint triumph November 2, he is confident she has again emerged with enough moxie to take it to some top-notch male counterparts.

And once owner Mandy Pope got thoroughly acquainted with the daughter of Bowman's Band, having purchased her from Bradley and partners for $3.1 million at the Keeneland November breeding stock sale, she became equally convinced there was another opportunity for the mare.

For a second consecutive year, Groupie Doll will try and follow up her Breeders' Cup success by besting male challengers in Saturday's Grade I, $500,000 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct, drawing post No. 4 in a field of 11 entered Wednesday for what figures to be the toughest field she has faced.

The lone female in the bunch, Groupie Doll is one of six Grade I winners in the Cigar Mile field, which also includes Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile winner Goldencents, millionaire Verrazano and the venerable Flat Out.

An inch the other way 12 months ago and Groupie Doll would be marching her chestnut self into New York as the defending race winner. The reigning champion female sprinter held a short lead in deep stretch of last year's race but was caught right at the wire by Grade I winner Stay Thirsty.

While last season's Cigar Mile came at the end of a nine-race campaign for Groupie Doll, she will be running for only the fifth time in 2013 this Saturday, having not made her seasonal debut until this August. As good as she bounced of her half-length win in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint earlier this month, Bradley wasn't shy about putting the bug in Pope's ear that the mare's spot in her illustrious broodmare band could be on hold for a bit.

"We had her where we needed to be on Breeders' Cup day, but I think now she's really good where she is," Bradley said. "I think all those races have helped her and she's back to where she's probably pretty confident, too.

"I didn't really pressure Mandy or anything, but I told her if you're going to run her again I'd love to train her for the Cigar Mile. I think she (Pope) saw her at Keeneland and felt like this would be big. The mare is right, and if we could get another race or so in her before next breeding season that would be great."

By virtue of their Breeders' Cup victories, Goldencents and Groupie Doll will be competing for an enhanced purse of $1 million in the Cigar Mile while Grade I winners will run for an enhanced purse of $750,000.

Getting clear running on the outside is the hallmark of Groupie Doll's best efforts. While all her key challengers drew outside her, honest fractions shouldn't be an issue with Goldencents, Verrazano and fellow Grade I winner Private Zone all figuring to be pushing one another for the early lead.

Goldencents showed he could take the heat and keep going when he was pushed by Broadway Empire through an opening half in :44.75 over a track that favored speed in the Dirt Mile but opened up for a 23/4-length, wire-to-wire triumph.

If any of the expected speedsters do start backing up, Groupie Doll could be joined in that second wave by multiple graded-stakes winner Forty Tales and Clearly Now, winner of the Grade III Bold Ruler Handicap at Belmont on October 26.

"This could be her toughest test yet, but I feel like she is up for it," Bradley said. "We're weighted above Verrazano and others so it's not easy what we're going in to. We think there is plenty of speed in there and hopefully (jockey) Rajiv (Maragh) can let her run her race and when she's ready just let her kick."


At Aqueduct, Ozone Park, N.Y.

When: 3:20 p.m. Saturday


Alicia Wincze Hughes: (859) 231-1676. Blog: Twitter: @horseracinghl.

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