Tampa Bay Downs is proud to introduce its blog, “Racing in the Sunshine.” By giving visitors an up-close and personal look at the majestic world of Thoroughbred racing, the sport’s participants – racing officials, horsemen, backstretch workers, trainers, jockeys and track employees – hope to entertain and inform fans everywhere.
Sunday, February 24, 2013
Maria Kabel, Assistant Trainer
insider’s opinions, observations and reflections about their favorite sport
Cincinnati native Maria Kabel
faced a crossroads when she was 25: move to Florida with the Golden Skates speed
roller-skating team, or make a living working with horses. Although the Golden
Skates were ranked No. 1 nationally, Kabel’s background showing hunter-jumpers
stoked her passion for all things equine, and she has been in the Thoroughbred
game ever since. An assistant the past 16 years to William “Buff” Bradley – the
trainer of 2012 Eclipse Award-winning Female Sprinter Groupie Doll – Kabel is
in her second season handling Bradley’s string at Tampa Bay Downs. Kabel
started on her own buying retired racehorses off the track and reselling them
for show careers, then worked at River Downs for trainer Bill Sweeney before
joining forces with perennial leading TurfwayPark
trainer Arthur Zeis. In 1994 Zeis entrusted a 5-year-old gelding named
Distinguished Bid to Kabel’s care, and he won seven races in a row at Turfway
in a 14-week span. Kabel, who lives on the Bradley family’s Indian Ridge Farm
in Frankfort, Ky., galloped and groomed their outstanding
gelding Brass Hat, who won nine stakes (including the Grade I Donn Handicap at
Gulfstream) and more than $2-million in his seven-year career. Brass Hat
resides on Kabel’s end of Indian Ridge Farm. She has broken the 12-year-old to
Western tack, and she and Buff ride him on trails around the property. Brass
Hat always will have a special place in Kabel’s heart, but 5-year-old Groupie
Doll – bred by Buff and his father Fred out of their mare, Deputy Doll – has
achieved even more, with a five-race graded winning streak last year capped by
her tour de force in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint at Santa Anita.
HOMETOWN: Frankfort, Ky.
BEST HORSE I’VE EVER
BEEN AROUND: Groupie Doll trumps Brass Hat. When I got to Santa Anita for
Breeders Cup week, she was bucking and jumping around in her stall, and on the
way to the track for her works I had to run behind her to keep up. She worked
three-eighths in 34 and change, and it didn’t even look like she was going
HOW I GOT STARTED IN
RACING: I competed in my first horse show when I was 13. We had a couple of
Thoroughbreds and a really cool half-Arabian, half-Quarter Horse we named Gray.
A woman named Karen McCleary kept layups at the same farm where I kept my show
horses, and I rode her horses and started liking it. I groomed and galloped for
her, and that’s how I learned before I went to work for Bill Sweeney at River Downs.
INSPIRATION: Buff’s father, Fred Bradley. He is an amazing man who has been
a lawyer, a judge and a state senator, flown fighter planes and raced cars. I
look up to him.
CHANGES I WOULD MAKE
TO RACING: Establish unified national racing rules and put more money into
drug detection to find the cheaters.
MY FAVORITE SPORTS
TEAM/ATHLETE: I follow the Cincinnati Bengals religiously. My favorite
athlete is Groupie Doll. She is a sound, tough, iron mare who can put up with a
NO. 1 ON MY BUCKET
LIST: Visit New Zealand,
go hiking and see the country.
SHOW/MOVIE: Grey’s Anatomy and Gone with the Wind.
FAVORITE THING ABOUT TAMPA BAY DOWNS: It’s
so horse-friendly. My horses get out in the round pens at least twice a week to
jump around and have fun.
WHAT ELSE I’D BE
DOING IF. … I’d probably be an interior decorator. I like to decorate
everything; it’s my second passion.
ADVICE TO SOMEONE
STARTING IN RACING: Start slowly and have realistic expectations. Too many
people go overboard and don’t last in the business.