As the Managing Editor of Horse Racing Nation, I suppose I am expected to maintain a sort of professional detachment about what I write in order to not let personal biases seep into my coverage of the sport I love. On the other hand, first and foremost, I am a fan. I guess what I am really getting at here is that it’s time for me to admit that I am a proud Groupie Doll groupie. Tonight, I will get a chance to root on my favorite filly when she returns from a four month absence to take on a loaded field in the Grade 2, $400,000 Presque Isle Downs Masters.
When last on the scene, Groupie Doll threw down the gauntlet and emerged as the queen of America’s female sprinters with an absolute monster performance in the Humana Distaff at Churchill Downs. The 7 ¼ length romp over last year’s Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint champ, Musical Romance, among other good ones, was completed in a dazzling 1:20 2/5 for the seven furlongs. Seeing the performance in person might have been even more impressive than it looks on paper. That win followed another easy Grade 1 score in Keeneland’s Madison Stakes, and the pair of races went a long way in confirming what many of her fans had long thought … Groupie Doll is something special.
Fast forward four months and now a fresh Groupie Doll, fully recovered from a minor physical setback, is once again thrown into the deep end of the pool. This is nothing new for the four-year-old daughter of Bowman’s Band as Buff Bradley has never been afraid to test his star at every turn, but tonight’s affair looks like it will be one of the toughest races on the road to the 2012 Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint. She will go from post seven in the twelve horse and will be piloted by Rajiv Maragh.
Heading her formidable competition in the Masters includes Salty Strike, who will bring a three-race stakes winning streak into Presque Isle, including a sharp score in last month’s Grade 3 Gardenia at Ellis Park. If you are looking for pure speed in tonight’s race, you can find it in spades in the form of It's Me Mom, whom I have no qualms in calling the quickest filly in the nation. The speed burner also sports a sparkling 6 of 9 lifetime record over the Tapeta surface at Presque Isle. While those two may be the ones most preferred after Groupie Doll, there are several others in here who could run big.
Atlantic Hurricane is one of Canada’s top sprinters, and enters the Masters having won seven of her last eleven at Woodbine, while not finishing worse than third in any of them. Ariana D is a multiple stakes winner who came flying late to just miss against Musical Romance in this very race last year. Kitty in a Tizzy and Sweet Cassiopeia both come in off lifetime best scores in stakes races at Arlington Park and Mountaineer respectively, while Bouquet Booth seems to have reinvigorated her career since returning to sprint racing. Finally, there is Holiday for Kitten, who is coming in with good turf form and has two stakes wins at Keeneland in her last two tries over a synthetic surface.
I have come to expect nothing short of brilliance from Groupie Doll, but clearly she has her work cut out for against this salty bunch and coming off the layoff. While this is a big race in its own right, I am only looking for a good performance that sends her on the Breeders’ Cup trail in the right way. It should be a great race at Presque Isle!