01/08/2014 1:23PM

2013 Eclipse Awards: Groupie Doll



                                                                photo by: Barbara D. Livingston

She wasn’t the overpowering force she was in 2012, but Groupie Doll still was able to repeat as winner of the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint and thereby make a very strong case to repeat as divisional champion in 2013. It was quite an emotional year for the connections of Groupie Doll, whose racing schedule did not begin until early August.

Even then, the 5-year-old mare was defeated in two of her first three starts in 2013, leaving the BC Filly and Mare Sprint as arguably the most important race of her career. Sold at auction four days after the Breeders’ Cup, Groupie Doll originally was co-owned by her breeders, Fred and Buff Bradley, in partnership with Carl Hurst and Brent Burns. A chestnut Kentucky-bred by Bowman’s Band out of Deputy Doll, by Silver Deputy, she had become one of the most popular runners in North America during a sensational nine-race campaign in 2012, when she won five straight graded races, capped by a 4 1/2-length romp in the Filly and Mare Sprint at Santa Anita. But 2013 unfolded in markedly different fashion.

Taken out of training in south Florida early in the year when Buff Bradley, her trainer, grew dissatisfied with her lackluster demeanor, she resumed training in early May at her home base, Churchill Downs, before finally resurfacing Aug. 10 at Ellis Park in the Grade 3 Gardenia, a one-mile race that was hardly ideal following a layoff of more than eight months. Groupie Doll flattened out to finish third as a 1-5 favorite, but Bradley sensed the effort would do the mare a world of good. “I’m sure she needed the race,” he said. “The mile was probably asking a little much.”

He was right, as Groupie Doll returned a month later to set a track record over a Tapeta synthetic surface in the Grade 2 Presque Isle Downs Masters, rallying from well behind to win the 6 1/2-furlong race in 1:14.88. In 2012, Groupie Doll had won the Masters, followed by another synthetic-track race, the Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes, at Keeneland, in prepping for the Breeders’ Cup. Bradley used the same blueprint in 2013, but this time, the results of the Grade 2 TCA were not nearly as encouraging: Groupie Doll finished a dull third as the 1-2 favorite behind Judy the Beauty and Gypsy Robin in the six-furlong race, casting major doubts on her once-invincible aura moving forward to the Breeders’ Cup. Bradley, however, did not waver.

Buoyed by the mare’s sharp half-mile workout at Santa Anita a week before the Nov. 2 Filly and Mare Sprint, along with a favorable outside post draw, Bradley was confident Groupie Doll would run her best race of the year. Again, he was right. Sent away a lukewarm favorite at 3-1 in a field of 12 and ridden for the 11th straight time by Rajiv Maragh, Groupie Doll enjoyed a perfect stalking trip from post 11, forging to the lead after turning for home and holding off Judy the Beauty to capture the seven-furlong race by a half-length, becoming the first two-time winner in race history. Bradley, overwhelmed with joy, could barely speak afterward.

His emotions were compounded by the impending sale, which came amid great fanfare at Keeneland on Nov. 6, when Groupie Doll was purchased for $3.1 million by the Whisper Hill Farm of Mandy Pope. Pope opted not only to continue racing Groupie Doll, but also to retain Bradley as trainer.

The mare finished a creditable fourth versus male rivals in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct four weeks after the Breeders’ Cup and and currently is in training at Gulfstream Park, with the Feb. 9 Hurricane Bertie tentatively set as her final career start before she is bred to Tapit.

For 2013, Groupie Doll won 2 of 5 starts and $871,000, bringing her lifetime record to 11 wins from 22 starts and $2,528,850 in earnings.