ARCADIA, Calif. — The chatter was that champion Groupie Doll had lost a step, that after a 2012 campaign of sustained brilliance, she couldn't deliver the same kick that ruled the female sprint division a year ago.
Loud as such rabble-rousing got, trainer Buff Bradley merely tuned in to what his eyes told him he was seeing from the chestnut mare he has raised from birth. With every stride Groupie Doll unleashed to keep Judy the Beauty at bay in the stretch of Saturday's Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, she was delivering the ultimate "told-you-so" on behalf of herself and her connections.
Bradley's insistence that Groupie Doll was as good if not better than her 2012 Eclipse Award-winning self got the ultimate supporting evidence when his homebred mare made her trademark surge on the far turn and won the race for a second consecutive year.
Where Groupie Doll's win last year served to further solidify her superiority over her division, Saturday's exhibit of gameness was all about kicking critics to the back.
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After taking off the early portion of the year following a nine-race campaign in 2012 that featured three Grade I wins, Groupie Doll lost two of her three starts since returning in August, including a defeat to Judy the Beauty in the Grade II Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes at Keeneland on Oct. 5.
"She's the best, I'm glad she showed it today," said Bradley, who co-owns Groupie Doll along with his father, Fred, and partners Carl Hurst and Brent Burns. "I mean, we knew how good she was. Nobody on my team ever lost confidence in her. We knew where we had to be with her."
Among the points Bradley said would make a difference Saturday was the fact Groupie Doll would be in her wheelhouse at 7 furlongs and that her form was best on dirt.
Similar to the run she made in the race a year ago when she overcame a speed-favoring track, jockey Rajiv Maragh let his mount relax in fourth on an outside path through an opening half in :44.19 before advancing up to announce her presence to Teddy's Promise and early leader Sweet Lulu.
Groupie Doll moved three-wide and took clear command of the 12-horse field at the head of the stretch. Moving in tandem with eventual third-place finisher Dance Card, Judy the Beauty came with a rally from fourth but was a half-length short as Groupie Doll finished in 1:20.75.
Groupie Doll is slated to be sold at the upcoming Keeneland November Breeding Stock sale, leaving her current connections with the same ability they saw from day one.
"Knowing that it was going to be her last race for us you can't say, 'Well, there is always next time,'" Bradley said. "I'm just so happy she's going out a winner."