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Sometimes things just work out: The Groupie Doll Story

In the weeks leading up to the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, The Bradleys announced that Female Sprint Champion Groupie Doll would be sold at the Keeneland November sale. Those of us in this industry know that this is first and foremost a business, but we never like to see our favorites go through the auction ring, particularly when they have a story like Groupie Doll’s.
The popular mare was bred, owned, and trained by Fred and “Buff” Bradley. Groupie Doll’s bloodlines weren’t spectacular, downright blue collar by some standards, but she was theirs, and that was what mattered. Since obtaining his training license in 1993, Buff Bradley has become renowned for the success he has had with horses with moderate pedigrees, the most notable of which have been Groupie Doll and her buddy Brass Hat.
When Groupie Doll came along, debuting the year after Brass Hat retired, she quickly established herself as one to watch. The Bradleys knew that with their small operation and penchant for working with horses with moderate bloodlines that they could have gone a lifetime without having a runner like Brass Hat, let alone be blessed with Groupie Doll right afterwards. And as good as she was in her 3-year old year, she only got better with age. She quickly progressed from “good” to “great” as she began to earn a reputation for being one of the fleetest fillies in the nation. She certainly deserved that reputation when she capped a stellar year with a Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint victory followed by an Eclipse Award for Champion Female Sprinter.
This year the popular mare had an abbreviated campaign. While down at Gulfstream for the winter, Buff did not like the way his mare was training, so he sent her home for some R&R and quality time with her best bud Brass Hat. The time off did the mare good, but it was not all rest and relaxation. As the time neared for her to return to training, Brass Hat put her through a little training of his own. Making sure he stayed to her outside, he would run her around the perimeter of the paddock. It became a routine so frequently indulged in that the pair wore down a path just to the inside of the paddock fence.

Once she did return to training, it was right back to business for Groupie Doll. Her 2013 debut came in the G3 Gardenia, and though victory was anticipated by many, she did not return victorious that day. Groupie Doll stumbled leaving the gate, failed to relax for jockey Rajiv Maragh, made a bold move about four wide, and then hung. Despite what naysayers exclaimed, it was a solid comeback race, especially considering that a mile has never been the mare’s favorite distance. She quickly followed up that performance with a track-record setting victory in the G2 Presque Isle Masters, but she then bounced a little in the G2 TCA Stakes, finishing 3rd. The naysayers again came out in full force with comments such as “she’s lost a step” or “her mind is clearly on being a mommy now” being tossed around left and right.
I sincerely hope those naysayers ate both crow and a slice of humble pie following Groupie Doll’s defense of her Breeders’ Cup title. That's not to say that I did not have my misgivings, because I most certainly did. I still believed in the mare, but she was facing a very good field and would need to bring her A++ game. Well, she did just that and put all doubts to rest. Up close to a hot pace early, Groupie Doll pulled herself into third by the half mile call then struck the lead shortly after turning for home. Looking every inch a champion, Groupie Doll continued on to the wire, gamely holding off the resurging Judy the Beauty and the late running Dance Card.
During the days leading up to Groupie Doll’s defense of her title, myself as well as my fellow Groupie Doll “groupies” were fervently praying that not only would our sweetheart stay stateside, but that she would be purchased by either Mandy Pope or Barbara Banke of Stonestreet Stables. Many tears were shed along the way as we all shared in the profound sadness of the Bradleys in selling their star. It was not just the parting of horse and owner that had us all down. We all grieved the loss of the Groupie Doll/Brass Hat pairing. But this is a business, and the Bradleys have mouths to feed.
As the gavel struck signaling that Mandy Pope had won the bidding on Groupie Doll for the cool sum of $3.1 million, I’m sure a collective sigh of relief was breathed nationwide. Our sweetheart was not only staying in the United States, she was going to one of the women we had wished would buy her. To further sweeten the deal, Timber Town Farm, where Groupie Doll will take up residence with Havre de Grace and Plum Pretty, isn’t too far from the Bradleys’ Indian Ridge Farm, and Mandy Pope graciously told the Bradleys that they could come visit their homebred mare anytime they wished.
The story does not end there, however. After spending time with both the Bradleys and Groupie Doll, Mandy Pope decided to let her newly acquired mare stay in training for just one more race. Groupie Doll will stay in the hands of the two men who know her best as she tries one more time to win the G1 Cigar Mile. Pope stated via press release that she felt that the racing public deserves to see super stars run so long as they are happy and 100% sound. Groupie Doll has already shipped to New York and will run under the colors of Mandy Pope’s Whisper Hill Farm.
It has been a rollercoaster ride of emotions the last few weeks in regard to America’s most popular sprinter. But the sadness of seeing Groupie Doll enter the auction ring has been burgeoned by her purchase by a popular owner and her new owner’s decision to run her at least one more time. Call it the power of collective wishing. Call it divine intervention. But whatever you want to call it, sometimes things just work out. Here’s to seeing Groupie Doll give the Cigar Mile one more try before moving on to her second career.
Mandy Pope, from the bottom of my heart I thank you for purchasing America’s darling sprinter and one of my personal favorites. I also thank you for being gracious enough to not only allow the Bradleys to visit anytime they wish, but to also allow America at least one more chance to see Groupie Doll race.  


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Older Comments about Sometimes things just work out: The Groupie Doll Story...

Certainly one of the feel-good stories of the year with the storybook happy "ending"! Thanks for providing details, and the video of Groupie Doll and Brass Hat are just priceless! Happy ending for the Bradleys, too, as their ability to go down the road for a visit has to cause them to breathe a sigh of relief. They won't have to say "goodbye" after all. Very pleased for all concerned!
Looking forward to seeing Groupie Doll in the Cigar Mile at AQU again this year.
I was thinking she's done enough, but I like to see them run, too. Wishing her a safe and successful trip. Nice story, Ashley.
This is a great story, and I'm so happy that we will get to see her run a few more times!
"Pope stated via press release that she felt that the racing public deserves to see super stars run so long as they are happy and 100% sound." To bad owners who could afford to run their horses longer didn't feel like this. GD is one of my favorites, in 2012 I thought her BC race was the best. Nice article.
Suddenly, Thanksgiving weekend just got a whole lot more interesting!

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Meet Ashley Tamulonis

Despite growing up in a non-horse racing state, Ashley has been a fan of the sport since a young age. Her love for horse racing was fostered through the kids’ book series Thoroughbred by Joanna Campbell, and it was her love of reading and horses that led her to educate herself on the ins and outs of the sport. Since becoming actively involved in the industry just a few short years ago, Ashley has had the opportunity to meet many important players in the industry, attend the Eclipse Awards, see personal favorite Mucho Macho Man race twice in person, and get to personally meet and befriend many of the fantastic fans and horsemen involved in the sport.


Before joining Horse Racing Nation, Ashley created her own blog Wired with Ashley Paige. The idea to venture into the world of blogging came to her when she realized that she had much to say about horse racing and no one to say it to at the time. Ashley began her time with Horse Racing Nation blogging as The Florida Filly. Using that moniker, she mainly covered racing in South Florida but also blogged about nationwide racing, industry issues, and from time to time offered her opinion on how various changes could be beneficial to the industry as a whole. A move north to New Hampshire began both a new chapter in both Ashley's personal life and professional life. She currently pens the new From Coast to Coast blog for HRN, which is simply a revamped version of The Florida Filly. Don't let the new look and name change fool you, though. Ashley still brings to the table the same great coverage as From Coast to Coast as she did for The Florida Filly. Ashley also participates as a voter in the NTRA Top Thoroughbred Polls.


An alumni of Macon State College, Ashley is from Central Georgia but is currently living in New Hampshire with her husband Chris and their two sons Charlie and Michael. A stay-at-home mom, Ashley juggles parenting with blogging and her other passions. Aside from horse racing, Ashley is a fervent football fan, enjoys reading and studying history, and hopes to someday author a historical work covering the Tudor period as well as biographies of horse racing’s stars, equine and human alike.

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