Grade I Groupies: William and Fred Bradley - by Evan Hammonds

 (Originally published in the April 21, 2012 issue of The Blood-Horse magazine. Feel free to share your own thoughts and opinions at the bottom of the column.)

By Evan Hammonds

The Bradley clan is back in grade I company. That would be the father-son team of Fred and William “Buff” Bradley, breeders and owners of Groupie Doll, the runaway winner of Keeneland’s Vinery Madison Stakes (gr. I) April 12.

Buff, who has been training since taking out a license in 1993, runs the Bradley Racing Stable. His wife, Kim, runs the daily operations at the family farm near Frankfort, Ky. It’s about as mom-and-pop as it gets.

They had grade I success with their star gelding Brass Hat in 2006 and returned to grade I company this time at their hometown track in Lexington.

A 4-year-old filly by Bowman’s Band—Deputy Doll, by Silver Deputy, Groupie Doll won the Gardenia Stakes (gr. III) at Ellis Park last summer and ran second, beaten a head, in Keeneland’s Lexus Raven Run Stakes (gr. II). She wasn’t coddled while wintering with Buff at Gulfstream Park this winter.

In her 2012 debut she was pitched in against males in a one-mile allowance/optional claimer where she ran second, beaten less than a length by the very good Boys At Tosconova. She then ran third in both the Sabin Stakes (gr. III) and Inside Information Stakes (gr. II).

“Every race she ran in was tough, and she did really well down there,” Buff said of Groupie Doll’s winter campaign. “When facing the boys…we knew she belonged with those kind. She’s that kind of racehorse. In a few of her races I don’t think she was as forwardly placed early in the race as we’d like. We thought if we could get her a little closer, then she’d be right there when it was time to kick in. That’s just how it worked out the other day.”

The “other day” was a three-length romp over seven furlongs of Polytrack in 1:23.76.

Groupie Doll races for the family along with longtime associates Carl Hurst and Brent Burns.

“Carl’s been with us for 35 years,” Bradley said. “We had the opportunity to let him buy in so we could get a little capital and also enjoy it with him. Carl and Brent have let us do what we need to do to get to where we are. We’ve bred a lot of mares together, and besides being horse business partners, they’re very good friends.”

Another favorite friend and family member is Brass Hat, the Bradleys’ game homebred who earned quite a following while stringing together a 10-8-5 career mark from 40 starts and pocketing more than $2.1 million in a seven-year campaign. He won or placed in 14 graded stakes and won the Donn Handicap (gr. I) in 2006.

“Brass Hat really put us on the map, and he still has a big following. People came to see him at the farm this weekend,” Bradley said. “I think we, my father and I, both understood how special he was and that was good because we got to enjoy racing him and campaigning him for as long as he did. We knew he was special to a lot of people.

“You get geldings like that that are hard-knocking and are around for awhile and people begin to recognize the name at that point. That’s very good for our business to be able to follow a horse like that for years. He was tough; he was tough every time he ran.”

These days Brass Hat is not so tough. But like just any other family member, the 11-year-old son of Prized has a job to do on the farm.
“He’s part of the family, and he’ll always have a job,” Bradley said. “We always knew he’d take care of the babies; for years when I would send him home for a week or two, we always put him with his little miniature pony buddy.

“Now he’s turned out with the (male) yearlings,” Bradley continued. “He is so kind to them; he kind of watches over them. He’s great in the job he’s in right now. He’s got one colt that likes to play with him and chew on his halter and the colt grabs onto the halter and Brass swings him around on it. Brass just takes it. He doesn’t have a mean bone in his body.”

As for Groupie Doll, she’ll get another chance to shine near her Old Kentucky Home, most likely on Derby day in the Humana Distaff (gr. I). After that, she might get a little break back at the farm.

“She had a strong winter campaign down at Gulfstream,” Bradley said. “At this time we’re thinking we’re going to give her a little time off after the next race and freshen her up a little bit.”

There’s nothing like spending a little more time back home.

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