Tepin makes it five straight with Jenny Wiley stakes record
As the 2-5 favorite opened up down the stretch, track announcer Kurt Becker summed it up best: “Nothing like turning the Keeneland lawn into your personal playground.”
Tepin strolled home under a Julien Leparoux hand ride by five lengths. Then you look at the time, and appreciate just how readily she fooled us with her insouciant air.
For Tepin established a new stakes record of 1:40.53 for 1 1/16 miles, bettering Apolda’s mark of 1:40.78 that had stood for 20 years. Considering how Tepin was toying with it all, Quiet Resolve’s record of 1:40.30 on the Haggin Course would have been in jeopardy had she been ridden against the clock.
The Jenny Wiley extended her winning sequence to five, beginning here last fall in the First Lady (G1) and Eclipse-clinching Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) over males, and continuing this season at Tampa Bay Downs in the February 13 Endeavour (G3) and course record-setting Hillsborough (G3) March 12.
But for two heartbreaks in the Diana (G1) and Ballston Spa (G2) at Saratoga last summer, Tepin would have had a perfect 2015. She looked much improved early last year when capturing the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (G2) and Just a Game (G1), but she’s reached another level entirely of late. Hence title defenses in either of those would be beneath her at this point.
Connections have sounded positive about invading Royal Ascot for the Queen Anne (G1), and why not? A champion of her caliber deserves new worlds to conquer.
Perhaps the best compliment was paid to Tepin Friday, when Miss Temple City preferred to tackle males in the Maker’s 46 Mile (G1) rather than Tepin, and the gambit worked to earn her a first Grade 1 victory.
Eight other distaffers were still game to try Tepin in the Jenny Wiley, chief among them a trio of imports – the Chad Brown duo of Dacita and Wekeela as well as Christophe Clement’s new recruit Akatea. Dacita mugged Tepin in the Ballston Spa, but it was questionable whether she could repeat the crime in Lexington. Wekeela brought proper French Group 1 form, but going longer, and this U.S. debut smacked of a good pipe-opener. Akatea had the best European form at a mile, making her an attractive value play.
They were all chasing the minor awards, though, if Tepin turned up. And turn up she did, giving them all five bounds and a thorough beating.
Beautifully relaxed in third as longshots Illuminant and She’s Not Here traded the lead through splits of :23.39 and :46.89, the champion cruised into second through six furlongs in 1:11.04. She’s Not Here might as well have had a giant bullseye painted on her as Tepin followed her into the stretch. Brushing her aside with devastating ease, Tepin gave her fans plenty of time to cheer. Her resume now reads 18-10-3-1, $2,895,973.
Meanwhile, Wekeela won the war for runner-up honors. Well back early after a sluggish start, Wekeela unleashed a strong rally. She could be the next Martin Schwartz stateside celebrity, especially since she’s likely to stretch out and get away from Tepin.
The 37-1 Illuminant achieved her objective of a Grade 1 placing by holding third. Dacita couldn’t get within seven lengths of Tepin the rematch, but the Chilean champion finished with interest for fourth. The disappointment of the race was Akatea, who appeared to be in a good spot early but was beaten turning for home and trudged home last of nine. I hope there’s nothing amiss.
Quotes from Keeneland
Mark Casse on feeling the pressure of training Tepin:
“A touch. But I have to say something. (Owner) Mr. (Robert) Masterson – if it wasn’t for him – everybody wouldn’t get to see the great Tepin. He wanted to let her run another year (rather than being retired). It puts a little pressure on us. I love it.
“But I just don’t want to let her down. It’s hard.”
Julien Leparoux on the pleasure of riding Tepin:
“It makes my job easier. She’s amazing. She can do whatever we want. I didn’t think there was going to be that much pace today, so I was planning on sitting second. But when I saw (other horses) going (to the lead), I just sat back there. On the backside, she started to get going. She’s amazing. Every time you ask her to do something, she does even better. It’s great.”
Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens on runner-up Wekeela:
“Tepin was awesome; my filly was awesome in her first performance in America. (She) completely missed the break. She was just in there enjoying all the scenery and kinda clued me in that she wasn’t going to break well, like most French horses.
“So my plan got thrown out the door. I was gonna sit right behind Julien (Leparoux on Tepin) and see if I could outkick her.
“Let's face it: I wasn’t going to beat her whether I got away good today or not, but I could have given (my filly) a much easier race. (Wekeela) is a quality filly and she’ll win her share of Grade 1s.”
Photo courtesy Keeneland/Coady Photography.