Groupie Doll wins Vinery Madison
Trainer Buff Bradley and his 80-year-old father had chances to sell homebred Groupie Doll, but they believed the 4-year-old chestnut filly belonged in the same class of elite sprinters.
She finally proved them right.
Groupie Doll rallied from the middle of the pack and took control in a four-wide charge to win the $300,000 Grade 1 Vinery Madison Stakes for fillies and mares Thursday at Keeneland.
''We've had a lot of farms (that) have inquired about her, and it's been very good we've been able to keep her,'' said Bradley, who runs Buff Bradley Racing Stable in Frankfort. ''I probably needed to sell. My dad probably needed to sell, too, but you can't put a price on what today was, you can't. With his age and knowing, he's very happy that he's able to experience this.''
Bradley and his father, Fred, had their biggest run in racing with Brass Hat, winner of three Grade 1 races from 2006-09 who had 10 victories in 39 starts during his seven-year racing career. Groupie Doll has landed a special place in their family, too, after they sold a small stake in the horse to longtime partners Carl Hurst and Brent Burns.
''We knew we were very lucky to have Brass Hat, and to be able to have a horse like this that we bred and raised again is really special,'' Buff Bradley said. ''For my father, who didn't want to sell her, he's getting up in age and he really enjoys this business.
''It doesn't matter if it's a $5,000 horse, he didn't really want to sell. That helped us and then a couple of partners that've been with us for a long time.''
Sent off at 7-2 odds, Groupie Doll ran the seven furlongs in 1 minute, 23.76 seconds under Rajiv Maragh. The 4-year-old chestnut filly narrowly missed a victory on the Polytrack surface in October in the Grade 2 Raven Run Stakes and lost by a head but won an allowance optional claiming race on the dirt at Gulfstream Park in December and has placed in her past four starts. This time, she wore blinkers.
''She belongs with these (horses), like she showed today. I knew she had the talent to run with these,'' Bradley said. ''When we decided to come to Keeneland instead of going to Oaklawn, it just made more sense. My father could get there easier, she knows this track, she's run well on this track and it's in our backyard.''
It was far from a sure thing. She was behind the leaders at the start and raced four-wide in to the turn before making her move after a half. She took control with a furlong left and expanded her lead at the finish, winning by three lengths.
''That's as big as we can go as far as I'm concerned,'' Fred Bradley said of a Grade 1 victory at Keeneland. ''We'll probably have another chance to sell her again.''
Not a chance.
Groupie Doll returned $9.80 for a $2 win bet. She's Cheeky was second and Ariana D third.
''I got a good outside post and just tried to get her involved in the race without doing too much early,'' Maragh said. ''After that, she just finished really strong. She finished with a lot of power. She was long gone by the eighth pole.''
Maragh credited the decision to put blinkers on the horse with helping her.
''I think the blinkers helped a lot,'' Maragh said. ''That way, she's closer without taking too much out of her, and she finished better.''
The Bradleys haven't decided the next race for Groupie Doll but have nominated her for both the Humana Distaff on May 5 and the La Troienne Stakes, which is expected to feature reigning horse of the year Havre de Grace, at Churchill Downs on May 4.
The favorite, Eclipse Award-winning female sprinter Musical Romance, went off at 9-5 odds but appeared to tire at the end to finish fourth.
''I couldn't really get her to settle,'' jockey Juan Leyva said. ''That's pretty much what made the difference.''