An ode to a mare who has already had countless paragraphs written for her seems a bit much. Maybe that's the point, though. The champions of the people, the ones who draw the stares and applause, are the ones who get the attention. Their names stand the test of time; their achievements are recorded in history books. While it may seem like there is nothing left to say, there is always something still to say about a fantastic racehorse.
Groupie Doll was another beloved member of the humble Bradley family. She was born, like every other member of her foal crop, in the first half of 2008. But she didn't race until the early summer of her three year-old season, and when she made her track debut at Churchill Downs, she finished eighth of eleven in a turf sprint event.
Her running line for that race said, "showed little."
One year after her inauspicious beginning, Groupie Doll was a track record-holder at Churchill Downs and preparing for a start at Presque Isle Downs. She was one of the early favorites for the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint. It speaks volumes of her vast improvement over just a year's time that this filly who "showed little" in 2011 was in contention for a 2012 Eclipse Award.
She began to inspire a following. How could you not cheer for this athletic chestnut filly? She was as honest a runner as they came. Under the shadow of Breeders' Cup purple, she defeated some very nice fillies and mares by open lengths. Rajiv Maragh was aboard, as he had been for many of her other races; his praise of Groupie Doll continues even into her retirement. She was a favorite, a horse to rally around.
When she dug in against Stay Thirsty in the Cigar Mile, she was given the praise usually reserved for winners. When she would skip away from stakes horses as if they were nothing, she stole the breath from even her most casual admirers.
Groupie Doll was all racehorse.
She and her human connections endured criticisms thrown their way during her short 2013 campaign. Many felt she was past her prime. But yet again, in a Breeders' Cup triumph over sturdy rivals, she proved her naysayers wrong.
The Bradleys were to lose their beloved champion in November of 2013; for $3.1 million, Groupie Doll passed from their hands to the barn of Whisper Hill Farm, run by quintessential horse lover Mandy Pope.
Many would retire the mare to the breeding shed then and there. Pope ran her twice more.
She lost nothing in a fourth-place defeat to the stalwart veteran Flat Out in the Cigar Mile. That could have been her last race, but her connections - and certainly fans as well - wanted to see her go out on a higher note. The 2014 Hurricane Bertie Stakes would be her career bow, named after another brilliant female sprinter.
Last out of the gate was the regal chestnut filly, who had strutted about Gulfstream like she owned the place. "Ten lengths back," estimated Larry Collmus as Maragh patiently sat astride his champion, trailing the tails of the leading pack. Eyes were glued to the screen as Groupie Doll floated into view, running without effort, sailing past horses one by one.
Tears welled and spilled as Groupie Doll galloped into the clear, putting away her competitors with a devastating turn of foot. The stopwatch clicked at the wire; a new stakes record for the filly who had "showed little" just a couple years before. And as she pulled up, returning to her adoring public, a career in which she had won more than she had lost was over.
The track will no longer be her home, the Breeders' Cup will no longer be her goal, and an Eclipse Award will be a reward of the past. Groupie Doll awaits a meeting with Tapit and many hours spent kicking up her heels in a private pasture.
Yet in the months to come, words will still be written for her. Her name will still be mentioned in the same breath as horses still running. And even after she has a handful of foals on the ground and gray around the muzzle, people will still remember her great triumphs as if permanently painted in their mind's eye. And when she is gone, her accomplishments will still stand, propped up by horse racing's sometimes stubborn approach to history.
This will not be the last thing written about the mare that once "showed little." If she would have shown no more, she would have faded into obscurity, but she was fast. She was game. She was a champion of the people.
~Written by Emily White