09/08/2012 7:23PM

Presque Isle: Groupie Doll returns in peak form for Masters

Renee Torbit/ Coady Photography
Groupie Doll finishes powerfully under Rajiv Maragh to win the Grade 2 Masters going away.

Groupie Doll showed she hasn’t lost a step when powering to victory Saturday night in the signature event of the Presque Isle Downs meet, the Grade 2, $400,000 Masters in Erie, Pa.

With Rajiv Maragh aboard, Groupie Doll forged her way through rivals on the backstretch run of the 6 1/2-furlong race before moving into fourth leaving the half-mile pole. By the quarter pole, Groupie Doll had dead aim on the early leader, It’s Me Mom, and she strode away to her third straight graded triumph, prevailing by 3 3/4 lengths over Kitty in a Tizzy, an 18-1 shot under Julien Leparoux. Sally Sally, a 95-1 outsider, was another neck back in third, with It’s Me Mom fading to fourth as the 9-2 second choice.

The winner returned $3.40 as a heavy favorite after finishing in 1:16.32 over the Tapeta synthetic. She now has won half of her 14 starts and earned more than $925,000.

Groupie Doll, making her first start in more than four months, strengthened her position as the top filly-mare sprinter in North America, although trainer Buff Bradley concedes there is still more racing to do this year, with the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint on Nov. 2 at Santa Anita still on the calendar. She will make her next start Oct. 6 in the Grade 2 Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes at Keeneland, a Win and You’re In event toward the Breeders’ Cup.

“There are some awfully nice fillies out there,” Bradley said earlier this week. “But we’ve got an unbelievable filly here.”

Bradley bred Groupie Doll in partnership with his 81-year-old father, Fred Bradley. Two family clients, Carl Hurst and Bret Burns, also own minor shares in the 4-year-old filly by Bowman’s Band.

Some 20 minutes after the Masters, Buff Bradley was back in the Presque Isle stable area. “I’m cooling her out with a smile on my face,” he said by phone. “She was awesome tonight. She didn’t break real sharp, so Rajiv had his work cut out for him. But they made it through just fine, and Rajiv said she was just magnificent.”

Groupie Doll was making her third straight start with blinkers, and all have resulted in wins in graded company. Her two prior scores came in Grade 1 races, the Vinery Madison at Keeneland in April and the Humana Distaff at her home track, Churchill Downs, on the May 5 Kentucky Derby undercard.

The $2 exacta (7-9) paid $37; the $1 trifecta (7-9-8) returned $446.40; and the dime superfecta (7-9-8-10) was worth $307.69.

Holy Heavens was an early scratch, leaving a field of 11 fillies and mares.

The Masters has become a major producer of contenders for the BC Filly and Mare Sprint, with each of the last three BC winners having run in the Masters. Those horses were Informed Decision (1st in 2009), Dubai Majesty (2nd in 2010), and Musical Romance (1st in 2011).