While Groupie Doll returned from a layup with a passable third in the Aug. 10 Gardenia Stakes (gr. III) at Ellis Park, she'll have little margin for error in the $400,000 Presque Isle Downs Masters Stakes (gr. II) at Presque Isle Downs Sept. 9.
The 6 1/2-furlong sprint on the Tapeta main track, which drew a field of 11 with an approximate post time of 7:40 p.m. EDT, was won by Groupie Doll last year en route to her Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (gr. I) score and championship honors as the nation's leading female sprinter in 2012.
This year, due to a late start of her 2013 campaign, the 5-year-old daughter of Bowman's Band will need a solid performance here to set her up for the Oct. 5 Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes (gr. II) at Keeneland and a Breeders' Cup return.
Groupie Doll, who drew post 10, was assigned 112 pounds as the 6-5 favorite on the morning line with regular rider Rajiv Maragh in the irons. She tuned up for the Masters with a Sept. 2 breeze at Churchill Downs for trainer Buff Bradley, who bred her in conjunction with his father, Fred. The duo races Groupie Doll along with partners Carl Hurst and Brent Burns.
For more on Groupie Doll's work and to read thoughts from Buff Bradley, click here.
Judy the Beauty could be a solid threat to Groupie Doll, but will need better luck than her last trip to the post. At Saratoga Race Course, the 4-year-old Ghostzapper filly flipped at the gate for the Aug. 23 Ballerina Stakes (gr. I), and was a late scratch.
Judy the Beauty ran second to million-dollar mare Starship Truffles last time out in the July 7 Princess Rooney Handicap (gr. I) at Calder Casino & Race Course. She circled rivals five wide after getting pinched at the start and was unable to get to the winner in the six-furlong dirt sprint. Her last victory for Wesley Ward was a six-furlong Keeneland allowance which she took by two lengths with a driving three-wide move. David Flores rides from post 9 as part of a 115-pound impost.
One of certain interest in this spot is Tuozzo Racing's local runner Purely Hot, a 5-year-old daughter of Pure Prize who has won five in a row at Presque Isle and is undefeated in six starts on the surface. Young trainer Nick Caruso will saddle the streaking Maryland-bred, a former claimer whose past five victories came by a combined 20 3/4-length margin.
Martin Scafidi's Winning Image is also on a streak, having taken her past four in stakes company at Delaware Park, Parx Racing, and Laurel Park. The 6-year-old daughter of Southern Image tries Tapeta for trainer Michael Aro for the first time, with all of her previous 23 starts coming on dirt.
William Butler's Pennsylvania-bred Lotta Lovin, a 4-year-old Repent filly trained by Mike Maker, won an Aug. 19 allowance event at the Masters distance prepping for this start, and also has a stakes victory over the track in the 2012 Malvern Rose, a 1 1/16-mile event on the synthetic track. At the beginning of the year she took the one-mile Likely Exchange Stakes by 10 1/4 lengths. She was third in the grade III Arlington Matron in May.
Completing the field are allowance winners Toto Cor, Sounds of the City, Allwewantforxmas, Striklinglybeautiful, and the graded stakes-placed Queen's Award, who comes off a runner-up finish in the June 29 Chicago Handicap (gr. III) at Arlington Park.
$400,000 Presque Isle Downs Masters Stakes (gr. II, Race 6, approximate post time 7:40 p.m. EDT), fillies & mares 3YOs & Up, 6 1/2 furlongs (all weather track)
PP, Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer, Odds
1. Toto Cor (KY), P. Morales, 112, L Stokes, 20-1
2. Sounds of the City (KY), A. Serpa, 112, A E Goldberg, 6-1
3. Allwewantforxmas (KY), S. Spieth, 112, M J Trombetta, 15-1
4. Striklinglybeautiful (KY), TBA, 110, T M Beattie, 20-1
5. Mystic City (NY), P.A. Rodriguez, 118, M A Ferraro, 8-1
6. Purely Hot (MD), H. Vega, 118, N J Caruso, 10-1
7. Winning Image (KY), J.C. Caraballo, 118, M C Aro, 4-1
8. Lotta Lovin (PA), R. Napravnik, 115, M J Maker, 8-1
9. Judy the Beauty (ON), D.R. Flores, 115, W A Ward, 5-2
10. Groupie Doll (KY), R. Maragh, 112, W B Bradley, 6-5
11. Queen's Award (KY), K.J Desormeaux, 112, E Caramori, 5-1