Tepin simply imperious in Churchill Distaff Turf Mile; Royal Ascot next

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May 7th, 2016

Champion turf mare Tepin exuded class, and regular rider Julien Leparoux beamed confidence, in a superb title defense in Saturday’s $300,000 Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (G2). Now the winner of six straight, the reigning Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) heroine deserves to strut the international stage – and she’ll get her chance to star at Royal Ascot next month.

Two starts back in the Hillsborough (G2) at Tampa Bay Downs, Tepin sat back as Isabella Sings opened up a gigantic 18-length early lead. Her pace was torrid for a nine-furlong race, and Tepin coolly ran her down in course-record time. Isabella Sings didn’t turn up for the April 16 Jenny Wiley (G1) at Keeneland, where Tepin romped in stakes-record time after stalking a more typical pace.

In their rematch, the question was whether Isabella Sings would try to duplicate her blast-off tactics and open up an insurmountable advantage over the shorter trip. Her front-running success in last November’s Mrs. Revere (G2) proved her proficiency over this Matt Winn course. But Tepin and Leparoux were never going to let that happen.

Breaking alertly from the rail, Tepin observed what Isabella Sings was going to do. Her foe took a few strides to forge ahead through an opening quarter in :23.35. While Tepin gave her some rope as Isabella Sings rattled off a half in :46.06, the 1-5 favorite stayed within easy striking range, and indeed appeared to have her measure entering the far turn.

As soon as Leparoux gave her the cue, Tepin exploded past Isabella Sings, who weakened abruptly. The champion put the race away with that lethal burst, and Leparoux had time for a couple of celebratory fist pumps down the stretch. Tepin strolled home by 3 1/2 lengths in a final time of 1:34.36 on the firm course.

Rainha da Bateria made a most encouraging debut in her first start for Chad Brown. Adding blinkers for the new barn, she closed fast to grab second from Cash Control. Zipessa, third early, tired late in fourth. Isabella Sings trailed in last of seven.

Trained by Mark Casse for Robert Masterson, Tepin has now pushed her career earnings past the $3 million threshold, with a record of 19-11-3-1, $3,078,253.

For more background on Tepin, see her Eclipse Award profile.

Quotes from Churchill Downs

Julien Leparoux (rider of Tepin, winner) – "She's just a champ. She's a very good filly. I'm blessed to be on her. She's the best I've ever rode, that's for sure. She is really just special. Every time you ask her for something she does it even better. Today I didn't want to be too far from Johnny (Velazquez on pacesetter Isabella Sings). I took her a little bit out of her comfort zone, but then she just reacts on the backside and came kicking at the end like she always does."

Q: On the possibility of Tepin competing at the Royal Ascot meet.

"That would be a dream come true. I want to go there, and I think she deserves a shot there. I think she can be competitive there for sure."

Mark Casse (trainer of Tepin, winner) – “I guess we better start figuring out how we do this. As long as she is happy and healthy, the next day or two we’ll map out a plan. So I guess Royal Ascot here we come. Honestly I didn’t even say anything to Julien (Leparoux). He’s a great rider and he knows her better than anybody. I think that in his mind, I got the feeling that he wasn’t going to let her (Isabella Sings) get as far away. I know that Mr. [Robert] Masterson said to him, ‘You aren’t going to let her get too far away are you?’, but she is just amazing.

“I’ve been coming here for a long time. This is my first time since my dad (Norman Casse) passed away a couple of months ago, so this is kind of hard. If you’re a horse trainer, this is what you strive for and I don’t know if there is a better place to win than at Churchill Downs on Derby Day, and then to win with the best horse I have ever trained is very nice.         

“I’m a big believer in confidence and I think that she got her confidence. She gets along real well with Julien and I’ve said this many times, but (son and assistant) Norman has done a great job with her and he knows her. She doesn’t train like the average horse. Everyone looked and said ‘Oh she worked so slow for the race.’ Someone came up and said ‘Are you worried?’ and I said, ‘You just don’t worry, she’s better than ever,’ She’s learned to relax. We have a lot of good older horses and I believe in letting them get confidence and get better. She’s probably one of our biggest accomplishments because she started out as good and she’s become great. Nobody can predict this. I don’t care how good you are or how good a trainer you are, no one can predict greatness like her.”

Q: When will she ship to Royal Ascot?

“We’ll start talking about it tomorrow. We’ve already done some blood work in advance. She’s a great shipper. I would say that we would let her go not too early. This is home for her and she likes this racetrack and so we’ll try to stay here as long as we can.”

Javier Castellano (rider of Rainha Da Bateria, runner-up) – “The winner was much the best today. I’m really satisfied with the way my filly ran today. She finished really strong and I like the way she galloped out. My filly is going to prove a lot more the rest of the year.”

Brad Cox (trainer of Cash Control, third-place finisher) – "Big effort. I'm pleased with her. They were rocking and rolling, I know that. They were flying. The jock (Shaun Bridgmohan) did a good job saving ground both turns. I thought she was going to get second, just got caught late for second. Real pleased with her. We'll keep her on the turf. Maybe the Mint Julep (G3) here next. She likes it here."

Photo courtesy Churchill Downs/Coady Photography.