Tepin bound for BC Mile after trouncing First Lady foes
Going into Saturday's $400,000 First Lady (G1) at Keeneland, trainer Mark Casse had indicated that Tepin could run herself into the Breeders' Cup Mile (G1) with a big performance. Tepin must have taken that as a motivational speech, for the 8-5 favorite bolted up by seven lengths.
And her victory was more than just visually impressive. Despite the soft course, Tepin quickened markedly off a moderate early pace, reeling off her penultimate furlong in :11.56 and her final eighth in :11.79. Her time for the mile was 1:37.04, .41 better than the 1:37.45 clocked by the six-year-old gelding Grand Arch two races later on "yielding" in the Shadwell Turf Mile (G1).
Tepin is two photo-finishes away from a perfect 2015, both losses coming in the shadow of the post in the 1 1/8-mile Diana (G1) and the 1 1/16-mile Ballston Spa (G2). The daughter of Bernstein had run winning races in both, chasing a ferocious pace in the Diana before being caught by deep-closing Hard Not to Like, and again just nailed at the wire by Chilean champion Dacita in the Ballston Spa.
Considering that her breakout performances had come at a mile in the May 2 Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (G2) and the June 6 Just a Game (G1), Tepin promised to enjoy the cutback to a flat mile here. But even her most ardent fans couldn't have expected her power-packed display that brightened up a gloomy day at Keeneland.
Tepin's tactical speed came in handy in a race without too much pace on tap. Perched in second early, she kept 44-1 longshot Cara Marie in her sights through fractions of :24.38 and :48.90. Regular rider Julien Leparoux had her creep alongside the leader at the six-furlong mark in 1:13.69, and the race was over in a couple of bounds.
British-based Crowley's Law, a close third in her U.S. debut in the Noble Damsel (G3) last out, kept on for second. A half-length away in third was My Miss Sophia, who did well to make up ground after early trouble caused her to race much farther back. That's not her usual position, and it was especially costly in a race where it paid to be close.
An even better performance in defeat came from Aidan O'Brien shipper Outstanding. Totally blowing the start and spotting the field a couple of lengths out of the gate, the three-year-old filly rallied for fourth. Stablemate Easter didn't have an obvious excuse, as she was fourth early but ultimately faded to eighth.
I'd expect Outstanding, and possibly even Easter, to wheel back in next Saturday's Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1). O'Brien had executed that maneuver with Together back in 2011. A slow-starting second to Never Retreat in the First Lady, Together was sharper one week later and won the QEII.
Quotes courtesy of Keeneland:
Trainer Mark Casse on Tepin: “She was fired up today. She went a little wild in the Paddock. I told Julien (Leparoux) when I put him up ‘She’s on her game.’ She was impressive. I guess we’ll probably go back in the Breeders’ Cup Mile.”
Jockey Julien Leparoux on Tepin: “That’s a nice filly. Today she relaxed beautifully and finished strong. That’s it. It was done very quickly. There’s going to be more pace in the Breeders’ Cup, but if she runs the way she did today, she fits in there for sure.”
Jockey Victor Espinoza on runner-up Crowley’s Law: “She ran awesome. I tried to go with the winner but she left me at the eighth pole. She’s a nice filly.”
Jockey Jose Lezcano on third My Miss Sophia: “I had a very good trip. She broke good and I got in the position I wanted, letting the leaders go the whole way. When I tipped her out, she came with a good run, but the filly that won is a pretty nice filly.”
Jockey Colm O’Donoghue on fourth-placer Outstanding: “The pace was on the slow side for her. But she ran good. Obviously she wants to go a mile and a half, mile and a quarter.”
Tepin photo courtesy of Keeneland/Coady Photography.