09/09/2013 7:36PM

Presque Isle Downs: Groupie Doll sets track mark in winning Masters


Groupie Doll rebounded from a defeat in her 5-year-old debut to set a track record Monday night in repeating as the winner of the Grade 2, $400,200 Presque Isle Downs Masters, the annual showcase at the Erie, Pa., track

With Rajiv Maragh aboard, Groupie Doll ran down Purely Hot to win by 1 1/2 lengths, completing the 6 1/2-furlong distance in 1:14.88 over the Tapeta synthetic and returning $3 to win as the heavy favorite. Judy the Beauty, the 3-1 second choice, was another three-quarters of a length back in third in a field of nine fillies and mares.

Groupie Doll, the reigning Eclipse champion in the filly-mare sprint division, was making just her second start since November. She was third in her comeback race, the Aug. 10 Gardenia at Ellis Park, after which trainer Buff Bradley said he expected major improvement at Presque Isle.

Bradley bred and owns Groupie Doll with his 82-year-old father, Fred. The Bradleys made the seven-hour drive together Monday from Kentucky to attend the race and met up at Presque Isle with their ownership partners, Carl Hurst and Brent Burns.

“The big mare is back,” Bradley said by phone afterward. “We really thought she was back, and this race proved it. We’re very happy. The filly that ran second was awfully tough to get past, and it took a track record to do it.”

Purely Hot, a 10-1 shot whose first of nine races this year came for a mere $4,000 claiming tag, got a beautiful trip, racing a clear third for much of the way under Harry Vega while Groupie Doll chased from several lengths farther behind. Nearing the quarter pole, as two longshots faltered on the lead, Purely Hot shot to the front as Groupie Doll and Judy the Beauty also began making up steady ground.

Down the stretch, Purely Hot was resilient, but with less than 100 yards to go, Groupie Doll finally surged clear with her outside rally for her 10th victory from 19 career starts.

“I was calling the race for my dad because he didn’t have a very good viewpoint,” said Bradley. “I said, ‘Well, it looks like we’re going to be second. Then toward the end, I’m like, ‘Nope, sorry Dad, she’s going to win!’ It was great.”

“The speed really went out blasting,” Maragh told TVG. “When I left, I tried to ride aggressive to get position without being hung too wide. I made kind of an early move to put her in position and have no excuses. She might be even better than last year. She’s definitely not slower.”

Groupie Doll easily won the Masters last year and will run in the same two races – the Oct. 5 Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes at Keeneland and the Nov. 2 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint at Santa Anita – that she won last year in becoming an overwhelming choice as divisional champion.

Under allowance conditions, Groupie Doll carried just 115 pounds, including three pounds of overweight. Weights ranged from 112 to 119 for the others.

The former record for 6 1/2 furlongs at 7-year-old Presque Isle was 1:15.04, set in 2008 by Whistle Pig.

Groupie Doll, a Kentucky-bred by Bowman’s Band, earned $240,000 to increase her career bankroll to $1,908,850.

The $2 exacta (10-6) paid $20.60; the $1 trifecta (10-6-9) returned $41.70; and the 10-cent superfecta (10-6-9-2) was worth $35.87.

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the date for the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint. It is Nov. 2, not Nov. 1.