Groupie Doll Goes Out a Winner at Gulfstream in $200,000 Hurricane Bertie
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL– Two-time champion Groupie Doll punctuated a brilliant career Sunday at Gulfstream Park with a spectacular last-to-first romp in the $200,000 Hurricane Bertie Stakes (G3).
Making her 23rd and final start, the popular 6-year-old mare trailed the field by open lengths on the backstretch before circling her six rivals on the far turn and drawing away in the stretch to a seven-length triumph. Saddled by Buff Bradley, who bred the daughter of Bowman’s Brad in partnership with his father, Fred, Groupie Doll won under a hand ride by jockey Rajiv Maragh after running 6 ½ furlongs in 1:14.68, just missing the Gulfstream track record of 1:44.44 set by Forest Danger in 2005.
Mandy Pope, who purchased Groupie Doll at the Keeneland November Sale for $3.1 million from the Bradleys and their partners Carl Hurst and Brent Burns, led the two-time Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare winner into the Gulfstream winner’s circle.
“I’m so happy for Mandy and for Groupie, going out a winner like this. I love her going out a winner,” said Bradley, his voice cracking with emotion. “Seeing her on the backside, I was about sick to my stomach. I just thought, ‘Man, she got left at the gate. There’s too much to do.’ I was afraid there was too much to do, but when she made that move on the turn, she was just gone. This is one of the most exciting for me. Obviously, winning Breeders’ Cups is great, but to see her win for the new owner, I was just as excited as if I was the owner. It’s good to see someone who put so much into the game get rewarded.”
Groupie Doll, who is scheduled to embark on a new career as a broodmare and be bred to Tapit, received enthusiastic cheers and applause from the crowd as the 2-5 favorite entered the winner’s circle following her emphatic career-ender.
“I'm in tears...very excited. I'm so happy for everyone, the fans, Buff,” Pope said. “It's just so wonderful. I was so worried when she was so far behind, but they were telling me, 'Don't worry about it.' It was just wonderful and amazing.”
Breaking from the rail post position that was Bradley’s only pre-race concern, Groupie Doll was slow into stride, lagging well behind the field as Jamaican Smoke set the pace, pressed by Five Star Momma along the backstretch. Groupie Doll advanced on the field leaving the backstretch and was swung to the outside on the turn as Five Star Momma inherited the lead from a tiring Jamaican Smoke. Groupie Doll quickly erased any fears his trainer and owner might have felt and she galloped past her rivals with a five wide sweep to the lead on the turn before turning the homestretch run into little more than a victory lap.
“It worked out in our favor when she broke a little slow because it gave me an opportunity to get outside and get to the clear. One thing I didn’t want to do being on the inside is be pinned in and not be able to make my move when I wanted to. Going in, I’m pretty sure I’m on the best horse and I just wanted to be able to get a clear path. When she broke slow, it just kind of fell into place that I got off the inside and it all worked out from there,” said Maragh, who has been the regular rider for Groupie Doll’s last 13 races. “I mean, she was flying down the lane; she was going to win easy. I actually geared her down the last sixteenth because it was unnecessary to go any faster. She was going to win anyway. I was so happy that she showed the world what a powerful performance she has in her.
Five Star Momma, ridden by Abdiel Jean, held second place, three lengths ahead of Wildcat Lily and jockey Jose Alvarez.
The feel-good career finale produced Groupie Doll’s 12th career victory, including her eighth graded-stakes success, pushing her bankroll to $2,648,850 with the $120,000 winner’s share of the purse.
Bradley speculated that the rail post position may have contributed to the slow beginning that would eventually make Groupie Doll’s performance that much-more dramatic.“She usually breaks better than that. She usually breaks from the outside and the lanes are better for her and she gets up there quicker,” Bradley said. “Rajiv didn’t panic, thank goodness. He just sat there and didn’t panic and he knew when it was time to go to go.” Pope bought Groupie Doll as strictly a broodmare a few days after the Kentucky-bred mare won her second straight $1 million Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint at Santa Anita on Nov. 2. Pope subsequently decided to return her mare to training with Bradley for a scheduled career finale in the Cigar Mile (G1) at Aqueduct on Nov. 30. After she was checked and bumped early in that race, in which she closed to finish fourth, Pope and Bradley opted to give Groupie Doll a chance to go out a winner in the Hurricane Bertie.
“I know she’s going to have a good life. Mandy is going to take good care of her and I can see her whenever I want. I’m just happy with the career she’s had,” Bradley said. “You know she’s got to move on at some point. I wish she could keep racing this year, then retire, but I understand the business part of it. She got to stay around another year, and now she’s a winner as a 6-year-old. That’s something on her resume too.”