Bad news for the rest of the field in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (gr. I) Nov. 3: Groupie Doll likes California.
Groupie Doll, the even-money favorite on the morning line and currently riding a four-race winning streak, has been squealing and bucking as she walks around the shedrow, according to assistant trainer Maria Kabel, behavior she had not displayed in her native Kentucky. Of course, there is also the matter of that extraordinary Oct. 29 blowout clockers caught in :34 2/5 for three furlongs.
Groupie Doll, in the shadow of Hollywood, appears ready to put on a show.
“She has been more on her toes since she arrived here last Saturday,” Kabel said outside of Barn 36 at Santa Anita Park. “She really seems to like it. Her eating habits are great, and the day after she worked I was grazing her and she was squealing.”
Kabel has been working with Groupie Doll since the daughter of Bowmans’ Band showed up at the barn as a 3-year-old last season. She was bred by her owners, the father and son team of Fred and Buff Bradley, with Buff also doing the training chores.
After a solid four-furlong work at Churchill Downs shortly after she arrived, Groupie Doll came up lame behind, and a veterinarian thought she had a stress fracture. But Kabel thought differently, and walked her for two weeks before Buff Bradley came back up from Florida.
Groupie Doll began jogging, and instead of sending her to the Bradley family farm near Frankfort, they kept her at the racetrack. Groupie Doll never took a backward step from there.
Earlier this year, Groupie Doll morphed from a top allowance horse and graded stakes-placed performer into a monster. She has won the grade I Madison and Humana Distaff stakes and the grade II Presque Isle Downs Masters and Thoroughbred Club of America stakes. The addition of blinkers, and added maturity, are credited for the major move up in performance.
“Once she got the blinkers on she learned how to run,” Kabel said. “She was getting by on natural talent, but she was lugging in or out down the lane. She wasn’t paying attention; she was just messing around and looking around. She has learned how to run and she doesn’t even need the blinkers now. But we joke around the barn now that we should just stick blinkers on everything.”
Groupie Doll is the second major star developed by the Bradleys, who also bred and raced $2 million-plus earner Brass Hat, who has shared a paddock with Groupie Doll when she is laid up at the Bradleys’ farm.
“Brass will bite Groupie Doll if she tries to get treats before he does,” Kabel said. “He’ll send her off. But Brass is great with the yearling boys; he rules them around. Mostly he lives with the ponies and freaks out when we take them trail riding and leave him behind. He screams, so we have to leave one in there with him.”
Buff Bradley's children now work and do chores around the farm after school and on vacation, marking the third generation of Bradleys to work the land. The family grew hay and tobacco for years there while putting up fence and carving out a training track from the dirt in preparation for their Thoroughbred operation.
“Everybody who succeeds does so by knowing how much hard work it takes to get there,” Buff Bradley said. “Dad was the one who made the farm go. We wouldn’t be here with these horses without him.”
If Groupie Doll runs the way she’s been training, the Bradleys will have plenty to celebrate Nov. 3 and on Eclipse Awards day next January.