When new owner Mandy Pope purchased champion female sprinter Groupie Doll for $3.1 million Nov. 6 at the Keeneland November breeding stock sale, trainer Buff Bradley and his father Fred thought they were saying good-bye.
So did the many racing fans who watched the homebred 5-year-old daughter of Bowman's Band brilliantly win a second straight edition of the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (gr. I) Nov. 2 at Santa Anita Park. Pope, whose recent purchases include 2011 Horse of the Year Havre de Grace and that year's Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) victress Plum Pretty, has built a stellar broodmare band but does not maintain a lively racing stable at this time.
Groupie Doll, however, will sport Pope's silks in the Nov. 30 Cigar Mile (gr. I) at Aqueduct Racetrack, an event the mare lost by a nose last year to Stay Thirsty. With 11 entered—which would be the largest field since the same number started in the 2005 edition won by 25-1 shot Purge—she will face no easy task taking on the boys again as she leaves post 4 with regular rider Rajiv Maragh in the irons. Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I) winner Goldencents, Haskell Invitational (gr. I) winner Verrazano, and two-time Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) winner Flat Out are among her rivals.
"It's a tough field and she's going to have to step up again, but we feel right now like she's at peak level and happy as she can be," Bradley said. "It's an exciting time for us to be able to get her back and run her again. I think coming up here and knowing that she likes the track so much, knowing that we've had some support up here, helps a lot."
Bradley sent the champion through her final pre-race preparationsNov. 25, a solid four furlongs in :48.55 on the dirt training track at Belmont Park. He feels she didn't skip a beat in her coast-to-coast adventure after winning the Filly & Mare Sprint in California, selling at Keeneland in Kentucky, and heading to New York to prepare for a repeat Cigar Mile bid.
"She handles everything so well and everybody says we've done a great job with her, but these good ones are easy," Bradley said. "She's been all class and the new owner has been the same way; it's been very nice to train for her."
Groupie Doll comes into the Cigar Mile with an 11-4-4 record from 21 starts for the Bradleys and partners Carl Hurst and Brent Burns, with earnings of $2,478,850. In addition to the past two renewals of the Filly & Mare Sprint, she counts consecutive victories in the Presque Isle Downs Masters Stakes (gr. II) including a record-setting win this year, victories in the 2012 Humana Distaff (gr. I) and Vinery Madison (gr. I), the 2012 Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes (gr. II), and the 2011 Gardenia (gr. III), which was her initial stakes score.
"Mandy's main question to me after she bought her was, 'What would you have done with her if you'd kept her?' and I said I'd be looking at this race provided she came out of the Breeders' Cup in good order," said Bradley. "She's done so much on the track, she doesn't have anything to prove, but I think when a horse is 100% sound and ready to go, you like for the fans to be able to see them run and show them off a little bit.
"There's some good will toward Mandy for keeping the horse in training for more fans to see run, and I applaud her for letting the fans out there appreciate her. She has a great racehorse, and knowing she's right, why not race?"
Groupie Doll will carry 118 pounds in the Cigar Mile, while Goldencents is the 120-pound highweight. Departing Post 8 with Rafael Bejarano aboard, the 3-year-old son of Into Mischief looks to bolster a resume that includes victories in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) and Sham Stakes (gr. III) earlier this season at Santa Anita Park.
Goldencents is trained for owners Glenn Sorgenstein and Josh Kaplan by Doug O'Neill, who will also saddle Good Friends Stable's Vosburgh Invitational (gr. I) winner Private Zone, looking to rebound from a dismal 10th in the Nov. 2 Xpressbet Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I). A 4-year-old Macho Uno gelding, Private Zone will be ridden from the outside by Martin Pedroza under 118 pounds.
As winners of Breeders' Cup World Championships races this year, Goldencents and Groupie Doll will race for an enhanced $1 million purse in the Cigar Mile, which carries a base value of $500,000. The purse initiative for Breeders' Cup winners is one of two promotions from the New York Racing Association for the Cigar Mile; the second provides previous grade I winners with a purse of $750,000.
The Breeders' Cup was to have been the final start for Let's Go Stable and Coolmore partners' Verrazano, who also won the Wood Memorial (gr. I) and the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II) at the beginning of the season. But after the sophomore son of More Than Ready finished fourth in the Dirt Mile, his connections opted to keep him in training with Todd Pletcher for this outing.
Pletcher trains Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners' Foxwoods King's Bishop (gr. I) winner Capo Bastone as well. The 3-year-old Street Boss colt must also rebound from the Breeders' Cup where he finished 13th and last of all in the Geico Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (gr. IT) in his grass debut.
Verrazano drew post 10 under Javier Castellano carrying 117; Capo Bastone has been assigned 115 and gets the services of Irad Ortiz Jr. from the 6 hole. Pletcher also has Perretti Racing Stable's multiple grade II winner Forty Tales entered from post 2 under Joel Rosario carrying 115.
Flat Out is another who exits a Breeders' Cup run; Preston Stables' two-time Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) winner was eighth in the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. Regular rider Junior Alvarado will be aboard the 7-year-old son of Flatter.
Among the lineup are Gary Barber and WinStar Farm's Breeders' Cup Sprint runner-up Laugh Track for trainer Mark Casse; Up Hill Stable's Clearly Now, winner of the Oct. 26 Bold Ruler Handicap (gr. III) at Belmont for trainer Brian Lynch; and Oct. 19 Empire Classic Handicap winner Saratoga Snacks for August Dawn Farm and trainer Gary Sciacca. Drawing Away Stable and David Jacobson's allowance winner Praetereo completes the field.
First race post time is noon for Saturday's 10-race card, which includes the $400,000 Remsen (gr. II) for 2-year-olds; the $400,000 Demoiselle (gr. II) for 2-year-old fillies, and the $400,000 Comely (gr. III) for 3-year-old fillies.
$500,000 Cigar Mile (gr. I, Race 8, approximate post 3:20 p.m. EST), 3YOs & Up, one mile (dirt)
PP, Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Praetereo (KY), D. Cohen, 113, D Jacobson
2. Forty Tales (KY), J. Rosario, 115, T A Pletcher
3. Clearly Now (KY), J. Lezcano, 115, B A Lynch
4. Groupie Doll (KY), R Maragh, 118, W B Bradley
5. Laugh Track (KY), M.E. Smith, 116, M E Casse
6. Capo Bastone (KY), I. Ortiz, Jr., 115, T A Pletcher
7. Saratoga Snacks (NY), J.L. Ortiz, 114, G Sciacca
8. Goldencents (KY), R. Bejarano, 120, D F O'Neill
9. Flat Out (FL), J. Alvarado, 119, W I Mott
10. Verrazano (KY), J. Castellano, 117, T A Pletcher
11. Private Zone (ON), M A Pedroza, 118, D F O'Neill