ERIE, Pennsylvania (CMC):
Jamaican jockey Rajiv Maragh brought favourite Groupie Doll with a driving stretch run to win the US$400,600 Grade II Presque Isle Downs Masters Stakes at Presque Isle Downs here Saturday.
In a trip over 61/2 furlongs, Maragh kept the four-year-old chestnut filly off the pace, but with the leaders always in range, before unleashing a thunderous run down the middle of the track in the final furlong, to get home by 33/4 lengths.
The pair returned a handsome time of one minute, 16.32 seconds, not far off the 1:15.04 track record.
First start in four months
Groupie Doll was making her first start in more than four months, but showed little rustiness as she trounced the three-year-old and upward fillies and mares.
"She has been working out well and can adapt to any surface, so it wasn't a surprise that she ran a good race against a strong field," Maragh said.
"With two Grade One wins and now here, I'd have to think she's a star."
Saturday's win was the third added-money of the Buff Bradley-trained filly's career after scoring in the Vinery Madison at Keeneland in April and the Humana Distaff at Churchill Downs, her home track.
Maragh was the winning jockey on both occasions.
Groupie Doll now has the Grade Two Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes at Keeneland next month in her sights, but Bradley concedes there was still work to be done on the filly.
"Rajiv was concerned with trouble at the break, which we have to correct and he had to ride her earlier than we'd like," he said. "But she's a talented horse and you saw the way she responded."
It's Me Mom ripped the field through opening fractions of 21.40 and 44.65 seconds, with Groupie Doll racing fifth in the pack.
Once in the stretch, she showed excellent acceleration to overhaul the leaders and get to the front, reaching the finish with more left to give.