Tepin runs down Isabella Sings in course-record Hillsborough

Profile Picture: Kellie Reilly

March 13th, 2016

If you were an opposing general trying to figure out how to neutralize the shock effect of Tepin’s acceleration, you’d order a ferocious early pace. Stretch out the battlefield, so to speak, and hope that the champion turf mare wouldn’t have quite the same sprint for home.

Hall of Fame rider Johnny Velazquez executed this clever tactic aboard Isabella Sings in Saturday’s $200,000 Hillsborough (G2) at Tampa Bay Downs, opening up by as many as 18 lengths.

There was just one problem: Tepin proved too good anyway. Under an ice-cool Julien Leparoux, who played his hand to perfection, the 2-5 favorite waited to launch her move until the top of the stretch. Although Isabella Sings still held a five-length advantage in midstretch, Tepin had her covered, collaring her late to win going away by a length.

No more than a hand ride was required as Tepin blasted to a 1 1/8-mile course record in 1:46.26. The 2012 Hillsborough likewise established a course mark when Zagora covered about 1 1/8 miles in 1:46.97, while the exact nine-furlong record of 1:46.55 was set by Special Envoy on March 18, 2015.

The victory came at a poignant time for the Mark Casse barn. The trainer’s father, Norman, passed away earlier this week. The elder Casse’s grandson and namesake serves as assistant trainer, and Mark credits young Norman with developing Tepin into a champion.

Unlike Tepin’s smashing reappearance in the February 13 Endeavour (G3) at this course, we actually learned a couple of things here. First, Tepin stays a strongly run nine furlongs, a point that was debatable after she was caught in last summer’s Diana (G1). This will stand her in good stead for her attempt over Royal Ascot’s straight mile in the June 14 Queen Anne (G1). Second, if Tepin can relax off such a hot pace on firm turf, it bodes well for her chances of repeating in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1). The fast-run mile around Santa Anita’s putting green shapes up differently from a chewed-up Keeneland (just ask Obviously). But after the Hillsborough, that may be a distinction without a difference for Tepin.

Isabella Sings broke the course record herself, and finished five lengths clear of third, in a fine piece of derring-do. The Todd Pletcher trainee picked up right where she left off in her sophomore finale, a 27-1 wire job in the Mrs. Revere (G2) at Churchill Downs. Having honed her skills as a front runner, Isabella Sings can continue to rack up results in a Tepin-free zone.

The rest were never in it. The 90-1 Lovely Loyree, who accompanied Tepin in a stalking second early, held third from Bureau de Change. Chad Brown’s duo of Danza Cavallo and Ball Dancing wound up sixth and eighth, respectively, after wide trips in their comebacks. Danza Cavallo needs longer, but Ball Dancing was disappointing. Granted, this was her first start in nine months, but I expected to see more.

Bred by Machmer Hall in Kentucky and owned by Robert E. Masterson, Tepin has now compiled a record of 17-9-3-1, $2,685,973. She will bring a four-race winning streak into the April 15 Maker's 46 Mile (G1) versus males back at Keeneland. The $140,000 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling purchase is by Bernstein and out of the Stravinsky mare Life Happened, who is also responsible for multiple Grade 2-winning millionaire Vyjack. Check out Tepin’s Eclipse Award profile for her career highlights.

Photo courtesy SV Photography.