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Groupie Doll to Trounce in Gardenia

2013 Gardenia Stakes at Ellis

Ellis ParkOn Saturday, August 10th the 32nd running of the Grade 3 $100,000 Gardenia Stakes is on tap at Ellis Park and racing fans couldn’t be more excited about the return of 8/5 morning line favorite Groupie Doll as she makes her 5 year old debut. For fillies and mares three years old and up, the Gardenia Stakes is set at a mile and hosts a field of 12. The eighth race on the nine-race card on Saturday, the Gardenia Stakes headlines what will be no doubt a thrilling day at Ellis Park.

The Return of Groupie Doll

Groupie DollGroupie Doll overshadows the rest of this field and will certainly be the one to beat in the Gardenia. Her last outing was in late November of last year when she fell short by a nose to Stay Thirsty in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct. Prior to that race she was on a 5 win streak that started in April where she proceeded to notch out victories in the Grade 1 Vinery Madison at Keeneland, the Grade 1 Humana Distaff at Churchill, the Grade 2 Presque Isle Downs Masters Stakes, the Grade 2 Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes at Keeneland and the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint at Santa Anita. She actually won the Gardenia Stakes in 2011 which gives her the opportunity for a repeat here. Since the Gardenia started in 1982, there has never been a repeat winner. This also gives Groupie Doll a unique advantage over the rest of the field as she is the only one that has ever won at Ellis Park. Catch her 7 to 1 win in the 2011 Gardenia in the video below-

 

Originally, owner/trainer William Bradley had intended her first start of this year to be in the September 9th Presque Isle Masters Stakes, another race she won in last year. After posting a solid bullet of :48 for a four furlong work at Churchill on August 2nd that followed another bullet work of 59 and 3 at 5 furlongs on July 26th, he knew she was ready to run and needed a race before the Masters. A return to the Gardenia seemed like the most logical choice.

 

“There are several reasons [for running in the Gardenia]. One, she has been off nine months and I didn’t really want her to have to run her ‘A’ race in the race at Saratoga [Ballerina]. She’s ready now and instead of sitting on her another month, it would be better for her and more beneficial for her to run a race. I’m not saying it’s a prep race, but it kind of is a steppingstone to where we want to be.”

Groupie Doll looks set to win this one with no problems, but she does have a few competitors that might give her a run at it. Let’s take a look at whom I think might (and I say that in the strictest sense of the word) be able to cause problems for the daughter of Bowman’s Band.

Silence for the Groupie Doll

Ice Cream SilenceIce Cream Silence has an edge in class over the rest of the field (minus Groupie Doll). She’s the only other horse that has won a graded race, winning the Grade 3 Hilliard Lyons Doubledogdare Stakes at Keeneland by a neck. Brian Hernandez, Jr picks up the mount here for trainer George Arnold II. Hernandez has won on the filly before and seems to be a good fit for her in the Gardenia. Her works are decent and she made a valiant effort for fourth in the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis Handicap at Churchill Downs. When Ice Cream Silence has won in the past it has been after she has taken the early lead, though, and that could be a problem in this race since so many others in the field enjoy the spot as well and will fight her for it. This, of course, will also give Groupie Doll an advantage since she has proven herself a winner from the lead, the middle and the back of the pack.

Twice the Lady is No Doll

Twice the LadyMorning line 8/1 mare, Twice the Lady, could be a contender in the Gardenia. Although Twice the Lady has never won in a graded stakes race, she has put up some very nice efforts running 3rd in the Grade 2 Ruffian Handicap and 2nd in the Grade 2 Top Flight Handicap, both at Aqueduct. Her works are decent and her times put her as best of the rest (excluding Groupie Doll). Ricardo Santana, Jr will be in the irons for Twice the Lady and she’s backed by the very capable hands of Steven Asmussen. I look for Twice the Lady to make a run at it here and at the least pick up a show spot.

Possible Value Plays in Gardenia Stakes

Dixie StrikeIt’s very doubtful that any of these horses will take down Groupie Doll, so in the interest of exotics, show and place bets I have a few other horses for your consideration. First up is Molly Morgan. Molly Morgan is sporting some “best of the rest” times and has a great chance of hitting the board at good odds. She is also trained by Dale Romans who holds the title for most trainer wins of the Gardenia with Minister’s Baby in 2002, Angela’s Love in 2004 and Swift Temper in 2008. I also like Awesome Flower. Awesome Flower is coming off of a win at Canterbury where she earned a ½ length victory in the Lady Canterbury Stakes. She also has the ability to stalk the pace and that could prove to be in her advantage here. Last, but certainly not least, is Dixie Strike. This daughter of Dixie Union loves to make the late run and could certainly be up in the mix. Good luck to all!

 

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Mike Jr, eldest son of Mike Lane Sr, is co-lead author at HandicapHorseRacing.com and was raised on thoroughbred horse racing and handicapping. Although father and son often butt heads on their selections, they both have much love and admiration for the sport. Mike Jr. brings a new, fresh perspective to horse racing and is often in search of new angles to try.

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