Tepin as hot as ever in Endeavour reappearance

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February 13th, 2016

Freshened after conquering an international cast of males in the October 31 Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1), reigning champion turf female Tepin showed that she hasn’t lost any of her heat with a ready dismissal of Saturday’s Endeavour (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs.

The 1-5 favorite never had an anxious moment in the 1 1/16-mile test. While it’s true that she was entitled to win comprehensively, it’s always reassuring to get the verdict on the racecourse, especially for a mare making her 5-year-old debut off a break. Trainer Mark Casse had said that Tepin was “training super,” and even some weather-related interruptions in her preparation didn’t dampen her fire.

Aside from her massive class advantage, Tepin couldn’t have drawn up a better scenario for herself as the race unfolded. She broke alertly and secured the ideal tactical position, sitting ominously just off the flank of 28-1 pacesetter Lovely Loyree through fractions of :24.19, :50.17 and 1:14.84. Regular rider Julien Leparoux gave her a shake of the reins at the top of the stretch, and it was all over. Tepin stretched clear with a final sixteenth in :5.40. An emphatic 3 1/2 lengths on top at the wire, she finished in 1:42.91.

They finished in a heap behind her. Lady Lara nabbed Lovely Loyree by a half-length for runner-up honors, with Photo Call a neck away in fourth. Bureau de Change beat one home, the winner’s stablemate Lexie Lou, who trailed throughout.

That doesn’t tell the whole story about Lexie Lou, however. Casse had previously indicated that she’d need this race. The 2014 Canadian Horse of the Year was making just her second start back off a year-long layoff. Briefly revving up rounding the far turn – when the whole field was suddenly quickening – Lexie Lou was hung out four wide, couldn’t sustain the move, and lost ground as she tired down the lane. The jury’s out on whether Lexie Lou will regain her form, but we’ll know more when she gets back on Woodbine’s Polytrack.

Tepin, who has now won six of her last eight, boasts a scorecard of 16-8-3-1, $2,565,973. During her Eclipse Award campaign in 2015, the Bernstein mare also captured the First Lady (G1), Just a Game (G1) and Churchill Downs Distaff Turf Mile (G2). And she missed by inches in both the Diana (G1) and Ballston Spa (G2).

After her BC Mile, owner Robert Masterson decided to take Tepin out of Fasig-Tipton’s November Sale and keep her in training with a view toward a title defense in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. In the meantime, Tepin could return to the scene of her biggest victory for the April 15 Maker’s 46 Mile (G1) at Keeneland versus the boys.

Later in the $150,000 Tampa Bay (G3) over the same course and distance, Phipps Stable’s homebred Reload just foiled 61-1 longshot Take the Stand in the final strides.

Take the Stand, who forced the issue through a quarter in :23.15, wrested control at the half in :46.65. The rank outsider continued to click off splits of 1:10.23 and 1:34.18, but by that point, Reload was finally bearing down. Under Javier Castellano, the Shug McGaughey veteran forced his neck in front. Karibu Gardens swept from dead last for third, Sky Captain was a solid fourth, while 2-1 favorite War Correspondent folded to eighth.

It would be facile to compare Reload’s final time of 1:40.15 to Tepin’s, since the race shapes were totally different. In the Endeavour, the six-furlong time was more than four seconds (!) slower, so Tepin had to fly late for her final time to erase nearly half of that deficit.

Reload, a 7-year-old veteran, was improving his record to 23-8-4-3, $552,504. The son of Hard Spun was sidelined for 15 months following his first graded win in the 2014 Canadian Turf (G3). He placed third in a pair of minor stakes last season, the Lure at Saratoga and the Artie Schiller at Aqueduct in his latest November 21.

Reload’s dam, Grade 2-placed Hidden Reserve, is a full sister to multiple Grade 1 star Educated Risk and a half-sister to Hall of Famer Inside Information, dam of champion Smuggler.

Photos courtesy of SV Photography.