It’s only human nature to want to see champions win. When our heroes go down to defeat, it stings at first, and then we search for answers. When Groupie Doll finished third in yesterday’s Grade 3 Gardenia Stakes, a collective sigh was heard ‘round the racing world. The questions followed … Should we be worried about the champion mare? I say, no, Groupie Doll did nothing wrong yesterday.
Going in, I was cautiously optimistic about her first race, but admittedly, I had my worries. Expecting the world from a five-year-old mare, away from the races for nine months, after a gruelling close to her championship season, is a risky proposition. I’ve seen enough excellent mares lose interest in racing during the off-season, over four decades of following racing, to know that there was a chance that we would never see a totally committed Groupie Doll again. While you may say yesterday’s defeat at 1-5 could be another example of this phenomenon unfolding, I am happy to say, that is not what I saw at all.
Given plenty of time to be a happy horse again by owner/trainer, Buff Bradley, I saw a champion who needed the race, but in no way looked like a horse ready to be more a mom than a runner.
A slight stumble from her inside post position was bound to put the heavy favorite at a disadvantage from the get go. Sure enough, the large field was more than happy to keep her bottled up as long as possible. Rider, Rajiv Maragh did his best to negotiate Groupie Doll through traffic, working their way to the outside on the far turn. In fact, at the top of the lane, she looked like a winner.
It didn’t happen. Looking a little short, a little tired, and not completely ready to keep firing after already running her preferred sprint distance, Groupie Doll lost her seasonal debut. Hanging there in third against grade 3 fillies, to ultimately finish third by a length, was disappointing. In the bigger picture, though, everything she did within the race, demonstrated that she has not lost interest in racing.
Look for big improvement next time. I know I do. It really was a race that should set her up well for the rest of her season. The plan remains the same: the Presque Isle Masters, the Thoroughbred Club of America, and the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint will be her path in her attempt to prove once again to be the best female sprinter in the land.
Don’t worry Groupie Doll fans, yesterday was just a stepping stone to November. Groupie Doll is back, and will be just fine.