01/08/2013 7:45PM

2012 Eclipse Awards: Groupie Doll

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photo by: Barbara D. Livingston

If not for a nose defeat in her final start of the year, the Grade 1 Cigar Mile in late November, Groupie Doll might well have been a candidate for Horse of the Year. Yes, her 2012 was that good.

Up till then, Groupie Doll was one of the great success stories in racing in 2012. Bred and raised in Frankfort, Ky., by the father-son team of Fred and Buff Bradley, Groupie Doll was the dominant player in the filly-mare sprint division, reeling off five straight major stakes victories, capped by a sensational 4 1/2-length triumph in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint on Nov. 3 at Santa Anita.

The year did not start so spectacularly, as Groupie Doll finished second when she tried male rivals in her 4-year-old debut, a January allowance mile at Gulfstream Park. She then finished third in the Grade 3 Sabin and the Grade 2 Inside Information at the south Florida track.

But after being moved to Kentucky for the balance of the year, Groupie Doll hit full stride. Equipped with quarter-cup blinkers, she won the Grade 1 Vinery Madison at Keeneland by three lengths, then wheeled back on Kentucky Derby Day at Churchill Downs to win another Grade 1 race, the Humana Distaff, setting a seven-furlong track record.

Buff Bradley, her trainer, then gave Groupie Doll a brief rest after a minor hock issue, and the filly returned by winning back-to-back Grade 2 sprints on synthetics, the Presque Isle Downs Masters and the Thoroughbred Club of America at Keeneland. Bradley then sent her to Santa Anita, where Groupie Doll was a smashing winner of the Filly and Mare Sprint as the 7-10 favorite in a field of 10.

Bradley said the blinkers were not necessarily the prime reason Groupie Doll became such a force in her niche and that perhaps it was coincidental to her improvement and maturation. “All I know is we’re not taking them off,” Bradley said with a laugh.

The Cigar Mile at Aqueduct was something of an afterthought, although Bradley believed running the filly against male opposition to be a matter of low risk and high reward. Groupie Doll led for most of the stretch run before being nailed at the wire by Stay Thirsty.

“We’re as proud as we can be,” said Bradley. “Even in defeat, she was brilliant.”

For the year, Groupie Doll won 5 of 9 starts and earned $1,385,314, bringing her career totals to 9 of 17 and $1,657,850. Rajiv Maragh rode Groupie Doll in her last seven starts of 2012, including all of her wins.

Groupie Doll is a 2008 chestnut foal by the late sire Bowman’s Band and was produced by Deputy Doll, by Silver Deputy. She is the second standout horse bred and owned by the Bradleys, who own and operate Indian Ridge Farm in Frankfort. Their first was $2.1 million earner Brass Hat.

The Bradleys intend to race Groupie Doll again at 5, with a return to the Filly and Mare Sprint at Santa Anita being the primary goal. She is spending the winter in south Florida.