Winner of the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint at Santa Anita will take on the guys in Saturday’s 22nd Cigar Mile at Aqueduct.
Groupie Doll is seeking her sixth consecutive victory, but all the triumphs were sprints, none longer than seven furlongs. The 4-year-old filly hasn’t race at a mile since winning at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 27.
“I wasn’t looking for another race for her,” trainer William Bradley said Sunday. “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 Downs 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.”
Groupie Doll worked a half-mile in 48 1/5 last Saturday. “She came back good and ate up last night,” Bradley said. “Since the layoff over the summer she’s only had three starts and she’s won all three of them impressively. 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.”
The daughter of Bowman’s Band, bred and co-owned by Bradley and his father, is trying to be become the first filly to win the race.
Her competition includes Jersey Town, who won the $350,000 Grade 1 in 2010. He put in a five-furlong breeze in 59 2/5 at Belmont on Sunday. The son of Speightstown is coming off a fifth-place finish in the BC Dirt Mile on Nov. 3 following a 3 ½-length victory in the Kelso at the distance at Belmont Park.
Another key contender, Stay Thirsty, went a half-mile in 48 4/5 at Belmont last Saturday. The son of Bernardini finished second to Classic third-place finisher Flat Out in the Jockey Club Gold Cup on Sept. 29 at Belmont.
On the other hand, Shackleford will go in the $400,000 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs on Friday, said trainer Dale Romans. “Basically it came down to just staying at home,” Romans said. “He likes it here and we think he’ll handle the mile and an eighth.”
Shackleford on Saturday worked four furlongs in 47 2/5 at Churchill Downs. The breeze — his first since a seventh-place finish in the BC Dirt Mile — was the second-fastest of 57 at the distance. “He worked really well and seemed to come out of it fine,” Romans said.
Shackleford will face a competitive field of 10 that includes Neck ’n Neck, seeking his third in a row after capturing the Ack Ack at Churchill Downs, where he’s 3 for 3 since May.
Other contenders are Pool Play, who won the Hawthorne Gold Cup on Oct. 6; Lunar Victory, who scored in Belmont’s Empire Classic on Oct. 20; and Take Charge Indy, victorious in the Florida Derby last March.