In the weeks leading up to the Breeders’ Cup World
Championships, The Bradleys announced that Female Sprint Champion Groupie Doll would be sold at the
Keeneland November sale. Those of us in this industry know that this is first
and foremost a business, but we never like to see our favorites go through the
auction ring, particularly when they have a story like Groupie Doll’s.
The popular mare was bred, owned, and trained by Fred and “Buff” Bradley. Groupie Doll’s bloodlines weren’t spectacular, downright blue collar
by some standards, but she was theirs, and that was what mattered. Since
obtaining his training license in 1993, Buff Bradley has become renowned for
the success he has had with horses with moderate pedigrees, the most notable of
which have been Groupie Doll and her buddy Brass
When Groupie Doll came along, debuting the year after Brass
Hat retired, she quickly established herself as one to watch. The Bradleys knew
that with their small operation and penchant for working with horses with
moderate bloodlines that they could have gone a lifetime without having a
runner like Brass Hat, let alone be blessed with Groupie Doll right afterwards.
And as good as she was in her 3-year old year, she only got better with age.
She quickly progressed from “good” to “great” as she began to earn a reputation
for being one of the fleetest fillies in the nation. She certainly deserved that
reputation when she capped a stellar year with a Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare
Sprint victory followed by an Eclipse Award for Champion Female Sprinter.
This year the popular mare had an abbreviated campaign.
While down at Gulfstream for the winter, Buff did not like the way his mare was
training, so he sent her home for some R&R and quality time with her best
bud Brass Hat. The time off did the mare good, but it was not all rest and
relaxation. As the time neared for her to return to training, Brass Hat put her
through a little training of his own. Making sure he stayed to her outside, he
would run her around the perimeter of the paddock. It became a routine so
frequently indulged in that the pair wore down a path just to the inside of the
Once she did return to training, it was right back to
business for Groupie Doll. Her 2013 debut came in the G3 Gardenia, and though
victory was anticipated by many, she did not return victorious that day.
Groupie Doll stumbled leaving the gate, failed to relax for jockey Rajiv
Maragh, made a bold move about four wide, and then hung. Despite what naysayers
exclaimed, it was a solid comeback race, especially considering that a mile has
never been the mare’s favorite distance. She quickly followed up that
performance with a track-record setting victory in the G2 Presque Isle Masters,
but she then bounced a little in the G2 TCA Stakes, finishing 3rd.
The naysayers again came out in full force with comments such as “she’s lost a
step” or “her mind is clearly on being a mommy now” being tossed around left
I sincerely hope those naysayers ate both crow and a slice
of humble pie following Groupie Doll’s defense of her Breeders’ Cup title. That's not to say that I did not have my misgivings, because I most certainly did. I still believed in the mare, but she was facing a very good field and would need to bring her A++ game. Well, she did just that and put all doubts to rest. Up
close to a hot pace early, Groupie Doll pulled herself into third by the half
mile call then struck the lead shortly after turning for home. Looking every
inch a champion, Groupie Doll continued on to the wire, gamely holding off the
resurging Judy the Beauty and the
late running Dance Card.
During the days leading up to Groupie Doll’s defense of her
title, myself as well as my fellow Groupie Doll “groupies” were fervently
praying that not only would our sweetheart stay stateside, but that she would
be purchased by either Mandy Pope or
Barbara Banke of Stonestreet
Stables. Many tears were shed along the way as we all shared in the profound
sadness of the Bradleys in selling their star. It was not just the parting of
horse and owner that had us all down. We all grieved the loss of the Groupie
Doll/Brass Hat pairing. But this is a business, and the Bradleys have mouths to
As the gavel struck signaling that Mandy Pope had won the
bidding on Groupie Doll for the cool sum of $3.1 million, I’m sure a collective
sigh of relief was breathed nationwide. Our sweetheart was not only staying in
the United States, she was going to one of the women we had wished would buy
her. To further sweeten the deal, Timber Town Farm, where Groupie Doll will
take up residence with Havre de Grace
and Plum Pretty, isn’t too far from
the Bradleys’ Indian Ridge Farm, and Mandy Pope graciously told the Bradleys
that they could come visit their homebred mare anytime they wished.
The story does not end there, however. After spending time
with both the Bradleys and Groupie Doll, Mandy Pope decided to let her newly
acquired mare stay in training for just one more race. Groupie Doll will stay
in the hands of the two men who know her best as she tries one more time to win
the G1 Cigar Mile. Pope stated via press release that she felt that the racing
public deserves to see super stars run so long as they are happy and 100%
sound. Groupie Doll has already shipped to New York and will run under the
colors of Mandy Pope’s Whisper Hill Farm.
It has been a rollercoaster ride of emotions the last few
weeks in regard to America’s most popular sprinter. But the sadness of seeing
Groupie Doll enter the auction ring has been burgeoned by her purchase by a
popular owner and her new owner’s decision to run her at least one more time.
Call it the power of collective wishing. Call it divine intervention. But
whatever you want to call it, sometimes things just work out. Here’s to seeing
Groupie Doll give the Cigar Mile one more try before moving on to her second
Mandy Pope, from the bottom of my heart I thank you for
purchasing America’s darling sprinter and one of my personal favorites. I also
thank you for being gracious enough to not only allow the Bradleys to visit
anytime they wish, but to also allow America at least one more chance to see
Groupie Doll race.