08/19/2011 1:01PM

Ellis Park: Groupie Doll emerging as new star for Bradley


Buff Bradley had been expecting a lull after he put Brass Hat out to pasture a few months ago. But much to his relief, there has been no such letdown.

Bradley might well have found a new stable star last weekend when he sent out Groupie Doll to a three-length triumph in the $100,000 Gardenia Stakes, the annual highlight at Ellis Park in Henderson, Ky.

“I told everybody when ‘Brass’ left, ‘He’d better pass the baton to another horse,’ ” said Bradley, 47. “Sure enough, it may’ve happened already. It’s been quite a pleasant surprise.”

Groupie Doll, the filly he bred and owns in partnership with his 80-year-old father, Fred, was the only 3-year-old in a field of 12 fillies and mares in the Grade 3 Gardenia, a one-mile race in which she earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 92. Groupie Doll, by Bowman’s Band, is now 3 for 4 lifetime and will make her next start in the $400,000 Charles Town Oaks on Sept. 17.

“That way we get to run her back against 3-year-old fillies,” said Bradley. “We knew the Gardenia would be a big test for her, so obviously we were thrilled. She’s still learning and hasn’t reached her full potential. When she was going up through a hole, she kind of pinned her ears back and sulked a little before she went on with it.”

Going into the final 10-day stretch of the Ellis meet, Bradley led the standings with 9 wins, followed by seven trainers tied with 5 wins each. Bradley, who is based entirely at Churchill Downs and ships his runners to Ellis, won his first training title when he topped the 2009 Ellis standings.

“We’re going to have to win some more to hold on, but I think we’ll be running enough to have a good chance to do that,” he said.

Brass Hat, a homebred gelding, earned nearly $2.2 million for the Bradleys in a remarkable 40-race career. He was retired in May at age 10.

Kuntzweiler ‘feeling good’

Groupie Doll was ridden by Greta Kuntzweiler, who has been back riding more than a year after returning in late June 2010 following a much-publicized 4 1/2-year hiatus because of substance abuse and rehabilitation.

Into this weekend at Ellis, Kuntzweiler, 35, had won 71 races from 837 starts for mount earnings of just more than $1.4 million since her return. Her biggest win in that time remains the $150,000 Kentucky Cup Turf aboard Rezif last fall at Kentucky Downs.

“I’m feeling good, doing good,” said Kuntzweiler. “I’m just so grateful to be exactly where I am with such good people around me.”

Good accepts punishment

John Good has decided not to appeal the case involving the horse he formerly trained, Stealing Copper, and has paid a $500 fine in the case stemming from a June 16 race at Churchill, where Stealing Copper won a $10,000 maiden claiming race before being disqualified for testing positive for two non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, flunixin and phenylbutazone.

One of the drugs, with applicable threshold levels, is permissible for raceday in Kentucky, but not two.

“It’s disappointing to lose a race in this way, given the mitigating circumstances,” said Good, a former longtime assistant to Bob Baffert. “But I have the utmost respect for the rules, and I’m accepting this, putting it behind me, and moving on.”

All purse money from the subject race has been redistributed accordingly.

One stakes left on calendar

With the Gardenia in the books, the lone remaining stakes at the 31-day Ellis meet is the $50,000 Cliff Guilliams Memorial, set for the closing-day program of Sept. 5, Labor Day.

Otherwise, allowance races and a Sept. 2 overnight handicap are the richest events that remain.

Meets to overlap

It won’t be long that horsemen will be getting in their vehicles to travel from venue to venue. Turfway Park will run 16 dates from Sept. 8 to Oct. 2, while Kentucky Downs gets in four days of live racing during that same period: Sept. 10, 12, 17, and 19.

Turfway, by the way, will continue to run Saturday evenings (first post 5:30) at the fall meet, as opposed to the traditional Saturday afternoons. The Florence, Ky., track switched to Saturday evenings last winter. One exception for the fall: the Sept. 24 Kentucky Cup program remains an afternoon event (first post 1:10).