11/22/2012 1:14PM

Q&A: William 'Buff' Bradley, trainer of Breeders' Cup winner Groupie Doll

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Trainer William “Buff” Bradley is back in the racing limelight with Groupie Doll, the 4-year-old filly who clinched a divisional Eclipse Award by romping to victory in the Nov. 3 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint. Groupie Doll, who will face male rivals Saturday in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct, is the second star bred and raced by Bradley and his 81-year-old father, Fred. The first was Brass Hat, who retired in May 2011 with career earnings of more than $2.1 million. Bradley is based at Churchill Downs.

Age: 49

Residence: Indian Ridge Farm, about 50 miles southwest of Frankfort, Ky.

OK, for the 97th time, where does the nickname “Buff” come from? When I was young I liked to ride a lot, and my brother Steve started calling me Buffalo Bill, and it got shortened to Buff. Everybody calls me Buff. In fact, if anybody calls on the phone and asks for William or Bill, I’m not there. It’s probably a bill collector.

At what point did the light bulb go on, making you say, “Hey, maybe we should try the boys in the Cigar Mile?” We never thought about running Groupie Doll any more this year until Churchill said they were going to have the parade for the Breeders’ Cup winners [Nov. 11]. So we took her to the track the week before the parade, and she was full of fire and ready to go. I knew the nominations were closing for the Cigar, and I had watched her train really well. Then the day nominations were closing, my exercise rider, Jada [Schlenk], told me to find her a race. Funny, but Jada knew nothing of me looking at the race.

Groupie Doll has been untouchable since you fitted her with those quarter-cup blinkers five starts back. Are they really that functional, or are they more of a good-luck charm now? The blinkers did help her mature and have helped her in her races early to stay focused. We are not taking them off at this point.

When you and your wife, Kim, were still sweethearts in the early 1990s at Oaklawn Park, she had a mega-crush on Dallas Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman. Where does that stand now? Kim is done with Aikman and maybe even the Cowboys (laughs). She has focused more on soccer these days. Besides keeping up with our three children, Kim runs the farm and keeps a close watch on all the horses.

How many kids do you two have? Our oldest daughter [Kory, 17] is a soccer player and a senior at Western Hills High School. Drew [13] loves animals and Boy Scouts. Jett is 9 and a top cross-country runner in the state for her age division. She loves to ride horses. All three kids work on the farm and are paid for their duties.

Your dad has been an exemplar in so many ways – as a businessman, politician, go-getter, family man, and horse owner and breeder. At 81, he has finally slowed down some over the last year or two: Fred − I call him Fred now − has slowed down in the last few years, but the horses keep him going, and he enjoys watching them run at any level. He still is in on all decision-making and will help night-watch during foaling season. Fred has been the one who got us started and kept us going.

You probably aren’t considering any of the Dubai races for Groupie Doll because of what happened there in 2007, when Brass Hat was disqualified from his $1.2 million share for finishing second in the Dubai World Cup because of a medication violation you still believe was not credible: No Dubai! It cost too much to go over there.

You worked for the late Clarence Picou for five years before going out on your own in 1993. How did he influence you as a trainer? Who else had an influence on you? Clarence Picou was a great mentor and a great friend. Clarence treated me well and taught me a lot about bringing young horses along and being patient with them. He always said the owners were the hardest to train. I really didn’t have any other mentors.

You’ve had Brass Hat and Groupie Doll, but we’d bet nobody – maybe even you – could name the third-best horse you’ve trained. Lightning really did strike twice with those two, huh? I am hoping that there are many other graded stakes winners to come along and may have one in the field right now. I just don’t know which one.

You have a reputation as one of the nicest guys in racing: Mean people suck. I really enjoy the people in this game. We are a family in horse racing, and we all strive for the same goal. We all want to keep looking for that special horse and give them the care and opportunity. I would hope that all of my friends could have a horse like Groupie Doll or Brass Hat someday.

The warmest place in your heart − Brass Hat or Groupie Doll? I love both Brass and Doll. If I didn’t have Brass I wouldn’t have gotten the chance to have Doll. I ride Brass on the farm every now and then. They both have kept me alive – in many ways.

Don Reed More than 1 year ago
Good man, but not an appropriate nickname.