02/07/2014 12:08PM

Gulfstream Park: Hurricane Bertie brings down curtain on Groupie Doll's career

Barbara D. Livingston
After her final race Sunday, Groupie Doll is scheduled to be bred to Tapit later this month.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – The most emotional farewells have already been said, and now, with this absolutely, positively being the last time Groupie Doll will race, Buff Bradley expects the send-off Sunday at Gulfstream Park to be a little more straightforward.

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“I keep telling people this is the third time we’ve said this’ll be her last race,” said Bradley, the co-breeder and former co-owner who has trained Groupie Doll throughout her stellar career. “I’m kind of used to it by now.”

Groupie Doll will face six others in her 23rd and final start in the $200,000 Hurricane Bertie, a 6 1/2-furlong race that goes as the fourth of 12 Sunday races.

Bradley fully expected Groupie Doll to be gone shortly after the Nov. 2 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint, which the mare won for the second straight year to clinch a second straight divisional Eclipse Award. But after Mandy Pope bought Groupie Doll at auction at Keeneland for $3.1 million, she asked Bradley to continue training the mare.

“Mandy deserves a lot of credit for keeping the mare in training for these past few months,” said Bradley. “Groupie has a big following, and the fans genuinely enjoy seeing her. I’m very grateful to have been a part of this.”

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Bradley isn’t the only one wanting Groupie Doll to go out a winner, as horseplayers figure to make her a strong favorite when she breaks from post 1 under regular rider Rajiv Maragh.

“Rajiv knows her so well that I won’t really have to say anything to him except, ‘Good luck,’ ” said Bradley. “Then we’ll just hope he can work out the right kind of trip and that we get the kind of racing luck you always need.”

Groupie Doll, a 6-year-old mare by Bowman’s Band, has won 11 of 22 starts and earned more than $2.5 million. Four weeks after the Breeders’ Cup, in her first and only start for Pope, she finished a creditable fourth versus male rivals when stretching out in the Cigar Mile at Aqueduct. She is scheduled to be bred to Tapit later this month.

The purse for the Hurricane Bertie originally was $150,000 before Gulfstream announced last weekend it would be raised by $50,000 if Groupie Doll started. Part of that extra incentive was to sway others to run against her, and evidently it worked fairly well. Three of her opponents – My Due Process, Five Star Momma, and Wildcat Lily – were scratched Thursday from the Awesome Feather to run in this race instead.

Maybe the most logical upsetter is Heart Stealer (post 6, Javier Castellano), winner of the Grade 3 Sugar Swirl here in her last start in mid-December. Trained by Marty Wolfson, the 4-year-old Heart Stealer has an excellent turn of foot and will be asked to turn back a couple of other fast ones before dealing with the late surge of Groupie Doll.

This is the 17th running of the Hurricane Bertie, named for the Klein family mare who was a divisional standout at the 2000 Gulfstream meet. Post time is 2:03 p.m. Eastern.