Tepin aims to be First Lady again in final Breeders' Cup prep
Not only has Tepin earned the moniker "Queen of the Turf," but the Mark Casse-trained champion has divinely ruled Keeneland's grass course, in particular, over the past two seasons. On Saturday, she will defend her title in the $400,000 First Lady (G1) as a prelude for another defense in the Breeders' Cup Mile (G1) at Santa Anita November 5.
Increasingly viewed as one of the best turf mares in history, Tepin has won eight of her last 10 starts. Although minor stains, her two photo-finish losses during that span have been more than offset by her success against males. Not only did she win last year's Breeders' Cup Mile at Keeneland in comfortable style, but she has since traveled abroad to win the Queen Anne (G1) at Royal Ascot and, last time, ground out a victory in the Woodbine Mile (G1) in Canada when seemingly not 100 percent fit following a three-month break.
Besides the Breeders' Cup, Tepin has had little trouble in her other Keeneland turf outings, capturing last year's First Lady by seven lengths and the Jenny Wiley (G1) in April by five lengths.
On a teleconference Tuesday, Casse said the decision on whether to run Tepin in Saturday's Shadwell Turf Mile (G1) against males or the First Lady was made following California Chrome's victory in last Saturday's Awesome Again (G1).
"Our ultimate goal is Horse of the Year, but we recognize California Chrome will be tough to beat," Casse said. "Our next goal is the Breeders' Cup Mile and what's the best way to get there. We thought it would be a little easier to face fillies."
Nine are set to oppose her in the First Lady. Celestine, dynamite winner of the Just a Game (G1) on the Belmont Stakes undercard, looks like the main domestic threat, though the Bill Mott trainee has not raced since that mile event on June 11. Onus, She's Not Here, Cash Control, and Photo Call will need the top two regress significantly.
A pair of sophomore invaders from Europe could make an impact. Nemoralia, who placed in the Frizette (G1), Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1), and Coronation (G1) at Royal Ascot prior to taking the City of York (G2) over males in August, has always been highly regarded. However, she threw a puzzling clunker at odds-on in the Sceptre (G3) at Doncaster last time. Regardless of her performance here, she might be wheeled back in a week's time for the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1) over nine furlongs.
Now Or Never, who captured the 1000 Guineas Trial (G3) at Leopardstown in May, earned minor shares in the Irish 1000 Guineas (G1), Coronation, and Matron (G1) in three subusequent outings.
Mongolian Saturday, who's had a rough time of it overseas since his upset score in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (G1) at Keeneland last October, will have to overcome post 12 in the $150,000 Woodford (G3) over 5 1/2 furlongs.
Second in an off-the-turf renewal of this a year ago, Mongolian Saturday then edged Lady Shipman by a neck in the Turf Sprint. However, he's gone unplaced in four Group 1 events in Hong Kong and England since that signature win.
Undrafted, a Group 1 winner at Royal Ascot in 2015 and hero of the Shakertown (G3) here last April, looks to snap a three-race losing skid. Recent Laurel Dash winner Mosler, as well as Hogy, Almasty, and Alsvid, also merit a look in this heat.