Groupie Doll began her winning streak by sweeping Keeneland’s Grade 1 Vinery Madison in April and Churchill Downs’ Grade 1 Humana Distaff in May. Following a break, she returned to win the Grade 2 Presque Isle Downs Masters in September, took the Grade 2 Thoroughbred Club of America in October at Keeneland, and shipped across the country to win the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint on November 3 at Santa Anita.
Her five victories have come by margins ranging between three and 6 ½ lengths.
Trainer Buff Bradley, who owns Groupie Doll in partnership with his father, Fred Bradley, Carl Hurst, and Brent Burns, said the 4-year-old came out of the Breeders’ Cup in such great shape that he realized she could compete in the Cigar Mile.
“I wasn’t looking for another race for her; I wasn’t looking for a race against boys,” said Bradley. “I thought that trip [to and from California] might knock her back a little, but they had the parade of Breeders’ Cup champions here at Churchill last weekend and she was just feeling so good. We took her to the track to train her just to let her down a little. I never even thought about the Cigar Mile until that weekend.”
The Cigar Mile will be Groupie Doll’s first start at the distance since she was second against males in a Gulfstream Park optional claimer in January.
“Since the layoff over the summer she’s only had three starts, and she’s won all three of them impressively,” said Bradley. “She’ll get a vacation after this, regardless, but she’s got something left. We want to run her when she’s ready to run, and she’s ready right now. The one-turn mile is good for her, and I feel she can be competitive in a race like this.”
Rajiv Maragh will ride Groupie Doll, the 8-5 morning-line favorite, from post position 7.
Mike Repole’s Stay Thirsty, the 2011 Grade 1 Travers winner, nearly added a second Grade 1 victory to his resume in Belmont Park’s TVG Jockey Club Gold Cup in September, just failing to hold off Flat Out after setting the pace in the 1 ¼-mile race. The Cigar Mile will be Stay Thirsty’s career finale and his first start at one mile or less since he was second in the Grade 1, seven-furlong Three Chimneys Hopeful in 2010.
“It would be a huge win for him,” trainer Todd Pletcher said of the Cigar Mile. “For a horse that’s already accomplished a lot, especially a Travers winner, to also show the versatility to win at a mile would be a feather in his cap.”
Ramon Dominguez will ride Stay Thirsty, the 7-2 morning-line second choice, from the rail.
Seeking a second Cigar Mile triumph is Jersey Town, who upset the 2010 renewal at 34-1. After picking up his second graded stakes score with a 3 ½-length score in the Grade 2 Kelso Handicap in September, the Charles Fipke homebred was fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile on November 3 at Santa Anita.
“The whole Breeders’ Cup was weird,” said trainer Barclay Tagg. “There were two horses picked over him [sixth-place finisher Emcee and seventh-place finisher Shackleford]. He beat both of them, and yet he didn’t get anything. I don’t think he liked the two turns particularly. They’re tight, little turns there, and maybe he didn’t like them.”
Javier Castellano will ride Jersey Town, the 4-1 third choice, from post 4.
Hymn Book, second in last year’s Cigar Mile, won the Grade 1, 1 1/8-mile Donn Handicap in February and focused on races at that distance and longer for most of 2012. After finishing eighth in the TVG Jockey Club Gold Cup, Hymn Book dropped in class and distance for Belmont’s Frank “Pancho” Martin overnight stakes at 1 1/16 miles on October 19 and came from off the pace to prevail by 5 ¾ lengths against three opponents in the slop.
“It might even be a better distance for him, going shorter instead of going long,” said Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey, who trains the 6-year-old gelded homebred for Stuart S. Janney, III. “He had a good race and came out of it good, and if the race develops in front of him, he’ll be fine. I have all the respect in the world for Groupie Doll, but she’s a filly against colts and she has to ship.”
Hymn Book, 6-1, will depart from post 5. Joel Rosario has the call.
Buffum, who showed flashes of brilliance earlier in his career, won his first graded stakes when he set the pace to win Belmont’s Grade 3 Bold Ruler Handicap by 1 ¼ lengths on October 27. The 4-year-old has made two other starts in 2012, a sixth in the Grade 2 Suburban Handicap in July and an optional claiming romp in May.
“I’m hoping to see him run the same race back,” said trainer Tom Albertrani. “He’s in good form right now, so I expect him to run big again.”
Owned by Godolphin Racing, Buffum will have the services of Eddie Castro from post 3. The 4-year-old was installed at 6-1 on the morning line.
“Last time we had to use him a little bit as he had the one hole,” said Albertrani. “Usually, he doesn’t run that way. He usually stalks for the first three-eighths or so, but we’ll let Eddie watch the race unfold.”
Coil, winner of the 2011 Grade 1 Haskell Invitational, has found a new vocation in one-turn races this year, finishing second in the Grade 1 Pat O’Brien in August at Del Mar and winning the Grade 1 Santa Anita Sprint Championship by a head in October. He enters the Cigar Mile off a seventh in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint on November 3.
Trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, Coil will depart from post 6 at 8-1 on the morning line with Martin Garcia aboard.
The field also includes Associate, who was third in the Bold Ruler after capturing an optional claimer by 2 ¾ lengths on September 22 at Belmont.