Tepin skipping Fourstardave, considering Ballston Spa: why not just wait for Woodbine?

Profile Picture: Kellie Reilly

July 29th, 2016

When trainer Mark Casse announced Friday that champion turf mare Tepin was no longer pursuing the August 13 Fourstardave (G1), I was relieved.

Indeed, I’d been surprised that the mile race versus males was under consideration for her first start back from her conquest of Royal Ascot’s Queen Anne (G1) on June 14. After all, her only two losses of 2015 came at Saratoga. She’s not a fan of the Spa heat, so why subject her to a clash with Ironicus in circumstances that will favor him? That’s not to say she wouldn’t beat him, but it could have been a Pyrrhic victory if it were a hard race in the heat off a two-month freshening.

Casse cited the heat as a factor in her feeling subpar in the past couple of days.

“She's not going to run in the Fourstardave,” Casse told NYRA publicity. “The Fourstardave was kind of a last-minute decision and we started having to maybe rush her a little bit and when we had this heat the last few days, she's just been really dull.

“She had a great day today but to make the Fourstardave we need to breeze her tomorrow, and we're not going to breeze her off one good day.

“She had two or three days where she just didn't want to pick up the bit and I think it may have been the heat. She was happy today. When she sits back in her stall and doesn't want to come forward and eat mints, she's not herself. She just wasn't herself.”

Now Casse did say that Tepin’s alternative target is also at Saratoga, the August 27 Ballston Spa (G2) against fellow distaffers. That’s the race in which she was mugged on the line by Dacita last year, and this time it around, it’s the projected comeback spot for undefeated sensation Lady Eli. At least the Ballston Spa gives Tepin an extra couple of weeks. And it shapes up as a probably easier target than the Fourstardave – unless Lady Eli miraculously returns from laminitis at her absolute best. Please God, if Lady Eli can recover her other-worldly form, chances are it might not be first off the bench.

Still, may I be so bold as to ask why Tepin needs to run at Saratoga at all? Admittedly, her losses there last summer certainly didn’t compromise her brilliant fall. As soon as she got back to “Tepin weather” (to borrow Casse's phrase) at Keeneland, she transformed into “SuperTepin” in the First Lady (G1) and Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1).

But I’m not sure it’s safe to extrapolate from her 2015 campaign. As good as Tepin was in the first half, she didn’t appear a world-beater back then. Just ask all of us who were rooting for Filimbi in the Just a Game (G1), and rued her terrible luck that contributed to her half-length loss. Tepin reached an entirely new level later in the season, with the First Lady her official turn of the corner. She’s been literally unbeatable ever since, and it can be difficult to maintain that stratospheric form over the long haul. Factor in a round trip to Ascot too.

At this point in her career, my (unsolicited) vote would be to go straight to the September 17 Woodbine Mile (G1). We know she runs well fresh, and the weather should be cooperative. If she’s jumping off the ground afterward, connections have the option of coming back in three weeks to defend her First Lady title, then another month to the BC Mile at Santa Anita.

Casse mentioned the possibility of pointing for Woodbine if she swerves the Ballston Spa.  

“If we don't go there we'll look at the Woodbine Mile. A lot will depend on the weather. If it stays really hot, it will affect our training and then that'll mess us up.”

Amid the uncertainty about her plans, there is this overarching cause for reassurance: Casse will err on the side of caution when it comes to his management of Tepin. We all know he’ll make the right call for her best interests.

Photo of Tepin copyright/courtesy Breeders' Cup Ltd.