Saturday's Cigar Mile isn't just an opportunity for Groupie Doll to win her fourth Grade 1 race of 2012 and sixth overall. It's a chance to put the proverbial cherry on top of a fantastic season and at least toss her name into the conversation in the Horse of the Year debate. And while the chances of Groupie Doll winning Horse of the Year are probably slim, regardless of her performance on Saturday, there's no doubt she's been one of the most consistent and dominating horses on the continent this year.
Groupie Doll's 2012 stakes campaign began innocently enough with a third place finish in the 8 1/2 furlong G3-Sabin at Gulfstream Park in late February, followed by another third place finish in the G2-Inside Information. The Sabin might have been just a tad too long for Groupie Doll and the two-turn set-up clearly isn't her best trip. The Inside Information was a bit of a clunker - at least when viewed in relation to the rest of her season - as she seemed to take a little too long to get going at the top of the stretch.
When Groupie Doll's season moved north to Kentucky and the Keeneland Spring Meet, her form took decided turn from "good" to "great". She steamrolled the G1-Vinery Madison by 3 1/4 over the Polytrack after which she decimated the G1-Humana Distaff at Churchill by 7 1/4. Back to the Polytrack for her next two starts, she won the G2-Presque Isle Downs Masters and G2-TCA by 3 3/4 and 6 1/2 lengths, respectively. And then, after a string of impressive performances, she wins the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint by 4 1/2 lengths while running against the prevalent rail/speed bias at Santa Anita.
(Something that many of us have forgotten about is the start to Groupie Doll's 2012 campaign: she finished second by a half-length in a one mile, $100k Optional Claiming race to Boys at Tosconova at Gulfstream Park.)
Viewed in totality, you could make an argument that if Groupie Doll could have won either the Sabin or the Inside Information, and held on in that optional claimer back in late January, perhaps her chances at a HOY win would be a little more realistic. in a normal year with a clear top horse in the Classic division, she probably wouldn't stand a chance. But in a year where the most consistent horses generally ran outside of the Classic, she might be in the conversation.
Heading into the Cigar Mile, Groupie Doll is faced with the tough task of running in a tough race just three weeks after a huge effort at the Breeders' Cup. As we have seen in the past, Breeders' Cup horses aren't the best bets in their come back efforts, whether they've been on the bench for three weeks or three months. If Groupie Doll can beat the boys on Saturday at the Big A, she will cap off a truly remarkable season.
Aside from the Cigar Mile, Saturday's Aqueduct card is a fantastic collection of betting races, along with several nice graded stakes events: G2-Demoiselle, G2-Remsen and G1-Gazelle.
Below are the entries and post positions for Saturday's Grade 1 Cigar Mile Handicap at Aqueduct. Morning line odds will be added when released.
|1||1||Stay Thirsty||R. Dominguez||T. Pletcher|
|2||2||Associate||J. Velazquez||R. Dutrow|
|3||3||Buffum||E. Castro||T. Albertrani|
|4||4||Jersey Town||J. Castellano||B. Tagg|
|5||5||Hymn Book||J. Rosario||S. McGaughey|
|6||6||Coil||M. Garcia||B. Baffert|
|7||7||Groupie Doll||R. Maragh||W. Bradley|