MASTERS STAKES | PURSE: $400,000 | 3-YEAR-OLDS & UP | FILLIES & MARES | GRADE 3 | 6 1/2 FURLONGS
Champion Groupie Doll rallied from well off a sizzling pace to capture the $400,200 Presque Isle Masters Stakes in track-record time for 6 ½ furlongs Sept. 9 at Presque Isle Downs & Casino.
Owned by trainer William "Buff" Bradley, Fred Bradley, Carl Hurst, and Brent Burns, Groupie Doll had to collar the upstart Purely Hot, who had won her past five starts and was six-for-six at Presque Isle. Purely Hot won the Satin N Lace Stakes at Presque Isle in June, but her past three victories had come in starter allowance company at the Pennsylvania racetrack.
Groupie Doll, a 5-year-old Kentucky homebred mare by Bowman's Band out of the Silver Deputy mare Deputy Doll, won the Masters last year en route to her title as champion female sprinter of 2012.
"She won this race impressively last year, but in slower time," said jockey Rajiv Maragh, Groupie Doll's regular rider. "But this year she set a track record. She might be even better than last year; she's definitely not slower."
Maragh said he wanted to put Groupie Doll in the mix early, but that didn't happen as Toto Cor and Winning Image sprinted away from the gate and dueled through fractions of :21.87 for the opening quarter-mile and :44.10 for the half-mile on the synthetic Tapeta surface. Groupie Doll meanwhile was racing in seventh in the field of nine fillies and mares.
Tuozzo Racing's Purely Hot, claimed by trainer Nick Caruso for $10,000 in March at Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course, had the garden trip in third, about five lengths behind the dueling leaders. The 5-year-old Pure Prize mare got the jump on Groupie Doll when she commenced her rally on the far turn.
Purely Hot engaged the top two through six furlongs in 1:08.36 and opened a short lead as Groupie Doll ranged up to her outside. Purely Hot was stubborn, but Groupie Doll, under little urging from Maragh, went by and drew off to win by 1 ½ lengths in 1:14.88, a track record for the distance.
Purely Hot, a former $4,000 claimer, ran huge in her first start in a graded stakes under jockey Harry Vega. She finished three-quarters of a length ahead of Judy the Beauty, who has finished second in three Grade 1 stakes in her career. Sounds of the City rallied for fourth.
Groupie Doll, the heavy 1-2 choice, returned $3, $2.20, and $2.10. Purely Hot, a 10-1 shot, paid $7.20 and $4, while Judy the Beauty paid $2.40. The exacta paid $20.60 and the trifecta $83.40.
"I wanted to break well and put her in a stalking position," Maragh said. "She broke well but the speed went out there blasting. I had to make an early move to put her in position so she would have no excuses."
Groupie Doll, who now has 10 wins, four seconds, and three thirds in 19 starts, didn't make her 2013 debut until Aug. 10 in the one-mile Gardenia Stakes at Ellis Park. She finished third, beaten a length, after a troubled trip and subsequently trained well at her Churchill Downs base.
Buff Bradley earlier said he planned to follow the same path as last year: the Masters and the Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes at Keeneland before Groupie Doll bids for a second consecutive win in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint at Santa Anita Park.
Groupie Doll has earned $1,908,850.