Photo: Don August
Please enjoy the sixth installment of my “2013 Breeders’ Cup
Highlights” series, which features the greatest personal moments of my Breeders’ Cup experience.
Highlight Six: Groupie Doll and Mizdirection
An abundance of past Breeders’ Cup champions returned to the
championships in 2013. Whereas some were abandoning the juvenile division to
seek victory against older horses, many were seeking defenses of their titles. Five
of these horses were successful in their repeat attempts: Wise Dan in the Mile, Mizdirection in the Turf Sprint, Groupie Doll in
the Filly & Mare Sprint, and Beholder
and Secret Circle in their
advancement from the juvenile ranks to the Distaff and Sprint, respectively.
These repeat winners were among the most popular of Breeders’ Cup weekend, but
two of them were also some of the most bittersweet moments of the
Both Groupie Doll and Mizdirection, the female sprinting stars of American racing, were
slated to sell just days after their Breeders’ Cup efforts. No longer would
they be with their popular connections – Buff Bradley and Jim Rome’s Jungle
Racing, respectively. These Breeders’ Cup title defenses would serve as likely
their last starts for these connections. This, combined with seeking repeat
victories on racing’s biggest stage, made the pressure high as the fantastic
mares went to post.
The prevalent thought surrounding Groupie Doll was that the daughter of
Bowman’s Band was not the same horse she had been the previous year. In 2012,
Groupie Doll had captured four consecutive graded stakes races prior to running
away with the Filly & Mare Sprint by 4 ½ lengths as the heavy favorite. But
after a layoff of nearly nine months, Groupie Doll began to make it seem as if she
had lost a step.
After losing her return in the Gardenia Stakes (gr. III), Groupie Doll gave
racing fans hope when she captured the Presque Isle Downs Masters Stakes (gr.
II) in track record style. However, a lackluster third in the Thoroughbred Club
of America Stakes (gr. II) in her final start before the Breeders’ Cup erased
much of that hope.
Nonetheless, Groupie Doll remained number one in the hearts of racing fans. She
returned to Santa Anita Park in hopes of becoming the first two-time victress
of the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (gr. I). Again sent off as the
favorite, Groupie Doll initially raced widest of all down the backstretch as
she settled into a position mid-pack. As the field neared the far turn, Groupie
Doll inched closer to the vanguard, continuing to race several paths off the
Advancing to third around the bend, Groupie Doll grew even with Teddy’s Promise
inside the quarter pole. Gaining the lead as the field turned for home, Groupie
Doll was asked by jockey Rajiv Maragh for all she had. Although a clear leader
down the lane, the late rallies of Judy the Beauty and Dance Card threatened
her lead. But Groupie Doll dug deep, displaying the heart that so many had come
to love her for as she held off the charge of Judy the Beauty to score by a
One race later, Mizdirection looked to continue the trend of repeat wins.
Just as she had the previous year, she was entering the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (gr. I) off a
lengthy layoff. But unlike 2012, Mizdirection loaded into the starting gate as
the favorite, carrying the pressure of an undefeated record over Santa Anita’s
downhill turf course and, most importantly, a Breeders’ Cup title defense.
The gray/roan daughter of Mizzen Mast sat off the blistering pace with regular
rider Mike Smith – who already had a pair of 2013 Breeders’ Cup triumphs to his
credit – aboard. She remained in this spot as the horses raced down the hill,
galloping on the outside. Mizdirection set her sight on the front as the field
crossed over the main track, beginning to unleash her rally just as Reneesgotzip
appeared to be drawing away.
Her athletic strides ate up the ground, carrying her closer to the lead. As she
powered down the center of the track, there was a certain aura of the large
crowd gathered at Santa Anita; it was as if most of the crowd was cheering for Mizdirection,
hoping she would cross the wire in front for the second consecutive year.
And she did. With her trademark determination, the mare passed her adversaries in
the final stages of the race in thrilling fashion, edging clear by a
Both mares received warm welcomes from the thousands of spectators gathered at
the Great Race Place when they returned to the winner’s circle after their
triumphs. Fans cheered, shouting out the mares’ names and congratulating the
connections. For the second year in a row, the spectacular sprinters donned yellow and purple Breeders’ Cup garlands of flowers, their nostrils flaring as a large group of photographers captured photos of them in the winner’s
circle. As the majority of the connections remained near the winner’s enclosure
for the formal winning ceremony, the mares returned to the barn, sweaty and
exhausted from their efforts but also confident. They strutted alongside their
handler, their necks arched. They knew they were winners.
Only hours after their victories, the mares boarded the star-studded first
flight back to Kentucky, which carried three repeat Breeders’ Cup winners:
Groupie Doll, Mizdirection, and Wise Dan. Groupie Doll and Mizdirection were
both slated to sell at Kentucky’s premier fall mixed sales.
Just two days after repeating in the Turf Sprint, Mizdirection entered the
sales ring at the Fasig-Tipton grounds in Lexington, Kentucky for the
Fasig-Tipton Fall Mixed Sale. As her athletic frame graced the auction
auditorium, the bidding rose quickly before slowing as the fall of the hammer
grew nearer. For a final bid of $2,700,000, Mizdirection was sold to Sheikh
Joaan Al Thani’s Qatar-based Al Shaqab Racing. The much-loved Mizdirection had departed
the American racing scene in such a brisk manner, but she went out with style.
Two days later, Groupie Doll was offered at the nearby Keeneland November
Breeding Stock Sale. Before a nearly full auditorium at Keeneland, Groupie Doll
stood under the bright lights shining over the sales ring, remaining serene as
she gazed at the unique sight before her. The bidding reached seven digits in
no time at all, but Groupie Doll stayed indifferent as the price escalated. The
bidding stopped at $3,100,000 – a price that made Groupie Doll the
second-highest-priced horse of the entire sale. Who signed the ticket? None
other than Mandy Pope, the same woman who had purchased Havre de Grace for $10,000,000 and Plum Pretty for $4,200,000 the previous year. To the delight of
racing fans, it was announced that Groupie Doll would make at least one more
start, which will take place against males in the Cigar Mile (gr. I) at Aqueduct on November
While racing fans have little to no time left to enjoy the racing careers of
Groupie Doll and Mizdirection, they have a plethora of memories that the
brilliant mares have left us with to cherish. With four Breeders’ Cup victories between
them, Groupie Doll and Mizdirection are certainly among the most brilliant
sprinting females the United States has seen in recent years. The only two-time
champions of their respective Breeders’ Cup divisions, these mares will not
only go down in history, but will also always have a special place in the
hearts of racing fans.