It was never in Mandy Pope’s plans to race Groupie Doll in Sunday’s $200,000 Hurricane Bertie (G3) at Gulfstream Park.
Pope had purchased Groupie Doll as strictly a broodmare prospect for
$3.1 million last November, a few days after the Buff Bradley-trained
champion captured her second-straight $1 million Breeders’ Cup Filly
& Mare Sprint.
A subsequent decision to run the Eclipse Award-winning mare one more
time in the Cigar Mile (G1), in which she experienced a rough trip
during a fourth-place performance, also didn’t turn out as planned. “It
was horrible and I hated to end her career like that. It was cold, not a
fun day over all,” Pope said. “I figured down here with the nice
weather, people will be able to be outside and see her and enjoy her.
Hopefully, it will be a grand way for her to have her last race.”
Groupie Doll, who will be ridden by Rajiv Maragh, is expected to be
the odds-on favorite to conclude her sterling career in the 6 ½-furlong
Hurricane Bertie, which attracted a field of seven fillies and mares.
“It’s not about the money. Mandy really does care about her horses,”
said Bradley, who bred the 6-year-old daughter of Bowman’s Band in
partnership with his father, Fred. “On paper, Groupie Doll looks like
she should win, but there’s a reason they put them all in the starting
gate. We still need things to go well.”
Pope formed a special attachment to Groupie Doll at the Keeneland November Sale before even Bradley knew it.
“I was trying to hide from Buff around the corner, and I saw her
stick her head out and people were giving her peppermints. I said,
‘Hmmm.’ Then they took her out to show her to some people and she was so
kind. I said, ‘Oh, Dear,’” recalled Pope about the sudden impulse to
add Groupie Doll to her high-powered, high-profile broodmare band. “I
just watched her a little bit, then I asked him to bring her out for me
and I just kind of fell in love with her. She’s pretty
Groupie Doll has, indeed, been awesome during her career, in which
the two-time Eclipse champion female sprinter has earned $2.5 million
while capturing eight stakes.
“Although this is going to be her last start and we’ll hate to see
her go, we’re really excited to see her run Sunday,” said Bradley, who
had campaigned Groupie Doll with his father and longtime clients Carl
Hurst and Brent Burns before selling her at auction to Pope.
The entries of Wildcat Lily and Jamaican Smoke in the Hurricane
Bertie are expected to provide a solid pace for Groupie Doll, whose best
races have been from off the pace. The Manny Azpurua-trained Wildcat
Lily set the pace in the Grade 1 Prioress before coming up just a
quarter of a length short of victory. The Eddie Kenneally-trained
Jamaican Smoke is also Grade 1 stakes-placed after setting the
Heart Stealer has won both of her Gulfstream starts since being
transferred to trainer Marty Wolfson, winning an entry-level allowance
by 10 ½ lengths and a late-closing triumph by a neck in the six-furlong
Sugar Swirl (G3) on Dec. 14.
Five Star Momma is a multiple-stakes winner who is coming off a
second-place finish in a Laurel stakes on Dec. 28. My Due Process and
Distortion round out the field.